Keeping your thermostat at a steady temperature throughout the day and night will prevent your pipes from freezing. In unoccupied homes, keeping the heat on can also mitigate flooding if a pipe bursts while you’re away.
If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, that’s a sign of ice buildup in the pipe. Gently applying heat to the frozen section of pipe with a hair dryer or space heater will help melt it.
1. Turn Off the Water
Frozen pipes are prone to burst, and that can lead to costly water and property damage throughout your home. If you suspect that a pipe has frozen, turn off the water at the shut-off valve.
Then open the faucets in other parts of your home to see if water comes out. If not, it’s likely that you have an ice blockage. To thaw a frozen pipe, apply heat to or around the section of the affected pipe. Don’t use a blow torch or other devices that generate open flames, as these can cause the melted ice to explode. Instead, wrap the frozen segment of pipe with a heating pad or towels soaked in hot water. You can also warm the area using a hair dryer, but be sure not to move it close enough that it creates a fire hazard.
During particularly cold winter weather, you can also prevent your pipes from freezing by leaving a small trickle of water running overnight. The movement of the water, even a very low flow, will help keep it from freezing because moving water carries more internal energy than standing water. You can also let a few faucets drip, especially in the most exposed areas of your home (such as against exterior walls or in unheated basements). Also, you may want to invest in an insulation sleeve (available at hardware stores) to give them another layer of protection.
2. Turn Off the Heat
While it may seem counterintuitive, turning off the heat at night during frigid temperatures can help prevent frozen pipes. This allows warm air from inside your home to circulate over exposed pipes and keep them active. It can also prevent the pipes from cooling down too quickly.
If you suspect a pipe is frozen, it’s important to act fast. Keep the faucet open to allow water to flow through as it thaws, which reduces pressure and provides the space needed for the ice to melt. Applying heat to the affected area is also helpful. You can use a hairdryer, electric heating pad (kept away from flammable materials), portable space heater, or even hot towels. However, you should never use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or any device with an open flame. This can cause the pipe to explode and lead to a fire in your home.
In addition to ensuring your thermostat is set to the same temperature day and night, you can also insulate problem areas with foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves. These products are available at your local hardware store and are fairly inexpensive. They can be easily installed by yourself or a professional plumber.
3. Keep the Door Closed
When a pipe freezes, the water inside expands, and the resulting pressure can be enough to burst any weak point in the pipes. The result can be hundreds of gallons of water leaking into your home and causing expensive repairs.
The key to preventing frozen pipes is taking preventative steps during the winter before they start to form. These might include disconnection and draining garden hoses, sealing air leaks around electrical wiring and dryer vents, closing crawl spaces, and insulating pipes in unheated areas. You can also purchase a sleeve for pipes that might be at risk of freezing from building supply stores.
Another strategy is to keep the water running at a trickle throughout the night when the weather turns cold. If you notice a frozen pipe, it’s important to immediately turn off the water. Next, apply heat to the affected area with a heating pad, space heater, hairdryer, or warm towels. Avoid using a blowtorch to heat the pipe because it poses a fire hazard and can cause the metal to melt. If the pipe still doesn’t thaw, it’s important to contact a plumber to assess the problem and provide further assistance. A professional can help determine if the ice is blocking the water flow or if the pipes are cracked or damaged.
4. Keep the Heat On
Pipes can freeze even in heated homes, especially when they’re exposed to extremely cold temperatures. The best way to prevent this is by keeping the home’s thermostat at a constant temperature day and night. The slight increase in your energy bill may be worth avoiding the thousands of dollars that can be spent to repair frozen pipes.
It’s also important to insulate all exposed water lines. Foam insulation sleeves that are available at most hardware stores are inexpensive and easy to install. They can be wrapped around pipes in unheated areas, such as those running along the attic floor or under a sink. The foam insulation will provide a layer of warmth around the pipes.
If you suspect a pipe is frozen, turn off the water supply at the valve located at the water meter or where the main line enters the house. Then, locate the frozen section of the pipe. Then apply heat to the area. You can use an electronic heating pad, a hair dryer or towels soaked in hot water. It’s important not to use blowtorches, kerosene or propane heaters or any other device with an open flame to thaw a frozen pipe, as this presents a fire risk.
5. Turn on the Faucets
If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle flows, suspect that a pipe is frozen. Frozen pipes often occur against exterior walls or where the water service enters the house. Locate the suspected frozen area of the pipe and keep the faucet open. The continuous flow of water will help melt ice in the frozen area. You can also try applying heat to the frozen section of the pipe using an electric heating pad, hair dryer or portable space heater (with caution).
It’s a good idea to keep cabinet doors and vanities open, especially those that contain exposed pipes. This will ensure that they feel the warmth of your home and prevent them from freezing. In addition, you can insulate your pipes with foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves.
If you have an attic or basement that contains exposed pipes, consider insulating those with a heat cable kit or a foam rubber or fiberglass sleeve. This is an inexpensive and effective way to protect against cold temperatures.
6. Turn on the Hot Water
When a pipe freezes, it expands and can put enormous pressure on the pipes and the water lines that lead to them. The pressure can be so great that it bursts the pipe and floods your home. This is one of the most common and costly cold-weather home disasters.
Leaving faucets open, even a trickle, can help prevent this from happening because the moving water will act as an insulator and warm up the exposed pipes. This can be especially helpful in rooms that do not have heating and are at high risk of freezing during a cold snap.
If a frozen pipe does occur, it is important to turn off the water supply immediately. You will then want to apply heat to the section of the pipe that is frozen. You can use towels soaked in hot water, hair dryers, space heaters, or electric heating pads. Avoid using kerosene heaters or blow torches, as they can cause fires.
Another effective strategy is to open cabinet doors under sinks so that the warmth in the room can circulate throughout the pipes. You should also do your best to seal up any drafts in the house, as even the tiniest opening can allow cold air to reach areas where pipes are located.
7. Call a Plumber
Frozen pipes often lead to flooded homes, which can cause extreme damage. They can also affect floors, ceilings, walls, carpets and furniture. It’s important to call a plumber as soon as you suspect your pipes have frozen. This is the quickest way to prevent further damage and minimize costs.
To thaw a frozen pipe, start by applying heat to it. You can use a hairdryer or space heater to do this, but you should never use an open flame, as this is a fire hazard. You can also try using a hot water bottle or wrapping the pipe in warm, damp towels. If you are unable to thaw the pipe, shut off your water supply and call a Waco plumber.
While frozen pipes are often found in the home, they can also freeze in rental properties, garages and sheds. If you are planning to go away for the winter, be sure to ask a trusted friend or neighbor to check on your property regularly. It’s also a good idea to turn on the heating and leave the faucets running at a trickle. This will keep the water moving and prevent it from freezing. Also, make sure to turn off the main water valve before leaving.