Tips to prevent and treat frozen pipes
Now that the winter season is upon us, one of the most common water issues caused by cold weather are frozen pipes.
When it freezes, water in a pipe expands. This creates pressure on the pipe and could cause it to break, regardless if it is plastic or metal. Pipes that freeze most frequently are swimming pool feeder lines, outdoor hose bibs, and water supply lines and unheated interior areas like basements, attics, garages and crawl spaces. As well, pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing.
Ideally, you would have drained the water from your pipes in the fall, before the temperature dipped below zero. Now that we’re in the middle of winter, here are some tips to prevent pipes from freezing now:
- If there are water supply lines in the garage, keep it closed and seal air leaks.
- Open you the cabinet doors in your kitchen and bathroom to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
- When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
- If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 13 degrees Celsius.
- Wrap pipes that are exposed to cold with foam insulation or even a few pages of newspaper.
If you turn on a faucet and only a bit of water comes out, the pipe is likely frozen. Here’s what you should try to fix the problem:
- Keep the faucet open and water running. It may help to melt the frozen area in the pipe.
- Using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater apply heat to the section of pipe. You can also try wrapping the pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use an open flame.
- Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
- Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
The thawing problem could take a few hours to resolve, depending on the situation.
You should check with your insurance company to see if your policy covers water damage from burst pipes. Alert Labs provides real time alerts about temperature drops in your home that could lead to frozen pipes and water damage. A home free from water damage in winter is not just a pipe dream.