While we often think that we can escape the hardships cold winter weather by being indoors, the cold can still cause problems inside. When temperatures plummet below freezing, normal plumbing can turn into a winter woe. A frozen pipe can lead to pipes bursting and can result in more than $5,000 in water damage according to the IBHS. However, some preventative measures can cost as low as 50 cents per foot of pipe. Which bill would you rather pay?

Why Pipe Freezing is a Problem

You may have learned in your high school chemistry class that when a liquid turns into a solid that atoms condense. However, water is special. Water expands when it freezes. When the water expands inside a pipe it has not where to go and creates pressure on the pipe walls. This can cause the pipes to break even if they are metal.

Pipes that freeze most frequently are:

  • Pipes that are exposed to severe cold. This includes outdoor hoses, swimming pool supply lines, and water sprinkler lines.
  • Water supply pipes to basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets. These areas are usually unheated or not heated well.
  • Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation.

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes Before Freezing Temperatures

Before winter weather arrives, protect your pipes through these measures.

  • In the fall, drain water from your swimming pools and sprinkler supply lines. Make sure to fall other manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Make sure to remove, drain, and store any outdoor hoses. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will keep your homes heat in this area.
  • Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  • Insulate your pipes. This inexpensive cover that can cause as little as 5o cents a foot could save your home from disaster.

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes During Freezing Temperatures

  • Make sure to keep garage doors closed. This keeps water supply lines in the garage warm.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to reach the plumbing.
  • Let cold water drip from the faucet when the water comes from exposed pipes. Even if it is just a trickle, letting the water run through the pipe can help keep it from freezing.
  • Keep your thermostat set to the same temperature during the day and at night. While your heating bill may go up, this will prevent the pipes from freezing and a water damage bill being sent your way.
  • If you are leaving your home unattended, leave the heat on. Make sure the temperature is not lower than 55° F.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, your pip might be frozen. It is likely that the pipe is frozen where it runs along an exterior wall or where the water enters the home. If your suspect a frozen pipe, follow the following steps.

  • Keep the water running. When your begin to treat the frozen pipe, it will begin to melt. However, this might not be all at once. Water could be running into the frozen part and freezing. We want to keep the water running so it leaves the cold area.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe that is frozen. This can be done by using a hair dryer, wrapping a heating pad around the pipe, a portable space heater, or by wrapping it with hot towels. Make sure that you use caution with hot objects and do not use a flame.
  • While it may be tempting to stop applying the heat once the water starts flowing, don’t stop until the full water pressure is restored.
  • Check other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too

What should I do if my pipe bursts?

  • First things first, make sure to turn off the water. You may also need to shut off the electricity to that part of the home. Water and electricity do not mix and could create a very dangerous situation.
  • Call a plumber. The pipes need to be repaired so that you can get back to normal.
  • Call Restoration Authority to remove the water and repair the damage it has done. If not removed correctly, the water damage could cause mold to start growing.
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