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It’s Prevent Frozen Pipes Season!

Prevent Frozen Pipes this season by taking a few extra stops.  Even a tiny crack in a pipe can release up to 250 gallons of water per day and can cause flooding and major property damage, including the potential for mold growth.  According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, property damage from burst pipes can easily exceed $5,000.  Frozen and bursting pipes are not just a cold climate problem either- homes in warm climates can be more vulnerable to frozen pipes because the pipes in those areas are typically not properly insulated against frigid temperatures.  There are several things you can do to prevent your pipes from freezing, and if they have already frozen, there are steps you can take to prevent your pipes from bursting and causing major property damage.

Frozen pipes are caused by rapid temperature drops, poor insulation, and thermostats set too low.  Don’t wait for the cold to arrive to protect your home.  Prepare during the warm months and you won’t have as much to worry about when winter arrives.

  • Insulate pipes in your crawl spaces and attic.  Exposed pipes are the most susceptible to freezing and they can be insulated for as little as fifty cents per linear foot.
  • Wrap pipes with heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables.  Heat cables are powered and keep problem areas warm when the temperature drops.  Be sure to only use products approved by an independent testing organization.
  • Seal leaks that allow cold air inside, especially where pipes are located.
  • Look for areas near electrical wiring, dryer vents, and of course near pipes.  Even a tiny opening can lead to frozen pipes.  Use caulk or insulation to seal these areas.
  • Finally, before winter, disconnect outdoor hoses, and shut off and drain the water from pipes leading to outside faucets.

Even if you have taken preventative measures, pipes can still burst once the temperature drops.

  • Once the cold weather hits, let hot and cold water drip, preferably from a faucet on an outside wall.  This provides pressure release in the pipe and is the only real way to keep pipes from freezing.
  • Keep your thermostat set at a constant temperature all day and night.  Temperatures frequently drop overnight and can lead to frozen pipes if you do not maintain a consistent temperature inside your home.
  • Open all cabinet and other interior doors.  Un-insulated pipes frequently run behind cabinets and opening the doors will allow heat to reach those un-insulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.  Keeping other interior doors open will allow heat to flow throughout the home and protect pipes in every room of your house.  However, make sure to keep your garage doors closed, as un-insulated pipes frequently run through garages.

Before you leave town, set your thermostat no lower than 55 degrees and ask a neighbor to check in on your house.  If you can, take the added precaution of shutting off and draining your water system.  Beware though- shutting off your water system may deactivate a fire protection system if you have one.

If your pipes do freeze, jump into action- you still may be able to save them!  Just because pipes have frozen does not mean they will burst.  If your pipes have not yet burst, leave your faucets turned on and call an experienced plumber immediately.  You may be able to thaw the pipe with a hairdryer.  If you try this, warm the pipe as close to the faucet as possible and work toward the coldest section of pipe.  Pipes don’t always freeze in the same spot, so you must find the frozen section.  If the pipe is frozen behind a wall, pump up the heat in your home and call an experienced plumber.  Many plumbers in areas prone to freezing pipes have thaw machines that thaw pipes in minutes.  Apply heat to the frozen pipe until full water pressure is restored and check other faucets in your home to determine if you have additional frozen pipes.  Do not attempt thawing your pipes with a torch or other open flame as this is a fire hazard, and if you need to use a space heater, use it safely and never leave your home while the space heater is operating.

You can use hot water and salt to thaw drainpipes.  Stir a cup of kosher salt into hot water, then pour the concoction down the frozen drain.  The concoction will act like rock salt put outside to melt ice-covered sidewalks.

If your pipes have burst, turn off your water at the main shutoff valve in your house and leave your faucets turned on.  This will stop the flow of water into your home and prevent further property damage.  If there is standing water, do not use electrical appliances in those areas as this creates a danger of electrocution.  Call an experienced plumber to fix the pipe and repair any damage from the burst.

Kelson Carter

Article reviewed by:

Kelson Carter, aka, The Prince of Plumbing

Kelson is a 3rd generation Plumbing Contractor. His family business is located in Greenwood, Indiana, and provides Residential Plumbing Service to the Indianapolis Metro market.

Kelson grew up watching his grandfather and father do plumbing. After graduating high school, Kelson went to Trade School and became a Licensed Master Plumber and Licensed Plumbing Contractor. He is also Certified in Backflow Prevention. He currently owns and operates Carter's My Plumber with his parents.


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