How to Prevent and Thaw Frozen Pipes

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Protecting your home from damage is something you undoubtedly want for your own safety and the safety of your family.  It is also better for your wallet and can even save you money on your homeowners insurance.  Many people are aware of the possibility of pipes freezing in a home but may not know how to prevent it from happening, or how to thaw pipes that have already frozen.  The American Red Cross has provided some helpful tips.

The Problem with Pipe Freezing

When water freezes, it expands, exerting a great deal of pressure on anything holding it.  Even the strongest container will eventually break under this enormous pressure.  Pipes that are exposed to extreme cold due to sprinkler lines, unheated areas of basements and crawl spaces, outdoor hose bibs, under kitchens and bathrooms, or attics can freeze and burst if they are not properly prepared for the cold.

Preventing Pipe Freezing

It is best to prepare your pipes for the cold prior to the winter season by doing the following:

  • Drain any water from swimming pool and sprinkler lines.  Do not use antifreeze in those lines because it is environmentally harmful.
  • Take water hoses inside and close valves that supply water to outdoor hose bibs.
  • Insulate both hot and cold water pipes in basements, crawl spaces, garages, and under the kitchen and bathroom.
  • You can install special products to insulate pipes, such as a pipe sleeve or heat tape.
  • Keep garage doors closed during extreme cold weather.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow the warm air to circulate.
  • If the weather gets very cold outside, let the water drip from faucets that are near exposed pipes.  Even a small about of water running through the pipe will prevent freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat on the same temperature during the day and night.
  • Even if you are going on vacation, do not leave your home unheated below 55 degrees F.

Thawing Frozen Pipes

There still may be circumstances where a pipe might freeze.  If you turn on your water but only a small trickle flows out, you should suspect that the pipe is frozen.  To thaw frozen pipes:

  • Keep the water running, which will help melt the ice.
  • Use an electric heating pad wrapped around the frozen section of the pipe.  You can also use an electric hair dryer, portable space heater, or towels that have been wrapped in hot water.  Do not use anything stronger, like a blowtorch, as that can make the pipe’s water boil and explode.
  • Check other pipes for signs of freezing.

These are only recommendations for preventing or thawing frozen pipes.  If you have reason to believe a pipe is frozen or has even broken due to extreme cold, you should consult a plumber or building maintenance professional.

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