The words “frozen pipes” can strike fear in the hearts of all homeowners. Why? Freezing water puts too much pressure on pipes which can then burst and release a possible stream of water into your home. Even after repairing and cleaning after a cracked pipe, your home is at risk for mold, mildew and rot.
The obvious solution is to prevent frozen pipes in the first place. Preparing your pipes should be a priority to get your home ready for the winter weather. But not all your pipes are in danger. Exterior pipes, outdoor faucets and pipes without insulation or in unheated areas of your home have the greatest chance of freezing.
There are several steps you can take to prevent frozen pipes, most of which are easy for any homeowner.
Take care of outdoor water hoses and taps first.
Empty your hose, remove it and store it indoors for the winter. If you can, turn off the water source for any external taps and then turn on the taps to empty the pipes of any remaining water. Cover your outdoor faucets with an insulated lid.
Use foam insulation
For indoor pipes in cold areas of your home, wrap the pipes with foam pipe insulation. Hope Plumbing, Indianapolis, IN, suggests using heat tape, which can help keep your pipes warm in cold weather.
Let your faucet drip.
You may already know that your taps will drip during a freeze, but did you know why? Family Handyman says that in addition to making the water less prone to freezing, a small gutter also helps prevent pressure build-up. So even if your pipes freeze, the small flow of water can help prevent a crack.
Open your cupboard doors.
Popular Mechanics points out that much of your plumbing can be along uninsulated exterior walls. Opening your cabinets and letting warm air into the space under your kitchen and bathroom sink can help prevent the water in these pipes from freezing.
Keep the heat on.
Leaving the heat at 55 degrees or warmer at night or when you are not at home is also recommended. If you lower the heat below, your pipes risk freezing and cracking. The cost of heating your home is worth it compared to the cost of repairing cracked pipes.
What to do if your pipes freeze
If you turn on your water and you only get a small drop, or worse, nothing at all, there is a good chance you have a frozen tube. Make sure you know where your main water shut-off valve is in the event of a pipe bursting. The Chicago Tribune points out that a pipe with even a “small crack can release 250 liters of water in a day.”; If the frozen tube section is exposed, you can usually locate it by looking for frost or sensing particularly cold sections.
This old house recommends that you turn on your faucet and use a hair dryer or heater to thaw the frozen part. They also advise against using a propane torch or other open flame, as it may boil the water in your pipes and cause a crack. Also keep in mind that you may have more than one part of the frozen tube. Atomic Plumbing & Drain Cleaning in Virginia Beach, Virginia notes that “if one pipe is frozen, so can others.”
If your frozen pipe is behind a wall, ServiceMaster Professional Services recommends that you turn up the heat in your home or use a heat lamp to heat the area where you think the pipe is frozen.
When your water starts to run, let your tap run for a few minutes to clear away any remaining ice. Home Fixers also recommends that you check the water pipe for leaks and call a plumber if you notice one.
What to do if your water pipe fails
If you take steps to prevent frozen pipes but you are still facing a crack, turn off the main water valve immediately. Top Notch Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing, in Kansas City, MO, says you should also turn off the electricity in that area of your home to prevent electric shock.
After repairing the damage, call your plumber and then clear the area near the break if it is safe to do so. The more you can limit any damage, the less you need to deal with the headaches with repairs.