When the insides of your pipes freeze, the flow of water is halted to one or more fixtures in your home—but that’s the least of your problems. It’s a bummer to be without water, but it’s a lot worse when your pipes burst, leaving you with water damage and a costly repair ahead of you.
Water expands when it’s freezing. When it expands in the pipes, it slowly increases their chances of bursting and leaking water all over the foundation of your home. That means you should take action before it happens in the first place, or at least as soon as you notice a problem.
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes
Before temperatures dip below freezing, you need to take the proper precautions to keep a burst pipe from completely flooding your home. Take a look around your home for pipes that may be at risk before the season gets intense, and take these steps to protect your house.
- Insulate pipes – Any piece of exposed piping in your home can be insulated to help keep the heat in. Insulating sleeves are sold at most hardware stores. In a pinch, layers of newspaper could help with insulation.
- Winterize outside – One common point for pipes to freeze and burst is the outdoor connections. Follow manufacturers’ instructions for winterizing your sprinkler system for the season. Drain and pack up hoses, and shut off water to the outdoors. Open up the outdoor taps to allow water to drain completely.
- Heat your home – Even if you go on a long vacation, you should always keep the heat on if there’s a chance temperatures can drop below freezing.
- Spread the heat around – On cold days or when you have the heat turned low, open up cabinets to allow heat to reach under-cabinet pipes. Keep doors open throughout the house as well.
- Run a faucet – You’ve likely heard this advice before, and it’s wise! Pick the faucet farthest from the water meter and keep a light drip going. This continued water flow helps to prevent freezing.
How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
Got a pipe that’s frozen? Don’t panic. It’s not a lost cause, and it’s important to try to restore the flow of water if you can, in order to prevent further freezing and breakage.
- Keep the faucet open so that water has somewhere to go as it thaws. Otherwise, you increase your chances of a burst pipe.
- DO NOT use an open flame to try to thaw the pipes.
- Instead, a hair dryer or heating pad is a good way to slowly warm the pipes and get water moving again.
- If you use a portable space heater to heat the area, do not leave it unattended.
Otherwise, if you cannot pin down the leak or do not have the resources (or confidence) to thaw the pipes, call in a qualified plumber to do the work. Many plumbers offer emergency services as well, so you can get help any time.