How To Keep Pipes From Freezing & How to Properly Thaw Frozen Pipes
When the temperature drops, the chances of your pipes freezing and potentially bursting increase. The recent icy weather across various states in the USA has proven this to be true. There were several reports of burst or frozen pipes in states such as northwest Oregon and southwest Washington.
According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, burst pipes are frequent reasons for property damage during freezing weather. They can easily cause water damage in the region of five thousand dollars or more.
Areas that are most at risk are those pipes based in areas that the heating system in homes does not cover. These areas may include garages, basements, and attics. However, pipes that run through exterior walls and in cabinets are at risk of freezing. Even though this is possible, there are easy ways for you to prevent your pipes from freezing, keep your house from flooding, and have running water.
It is important to note that it is better to prevent disaster than to fix things after the fact. It is, therefore, best to take measures to prevent your pipes from freezing or bursting. If you live somewhere where the temperature regularly drops below freezing, this is a must.
Organizations dedicated to disaster preparedness, such as the American Red Cross and the IBHS, can offer helpful tips on how to keep your pipes from freezing and how to thaw them if they become frozen.
Ways to Prevent Pipes from Freezing
Once the temperature starts dropping outside, you should take measures inside to keep your pipes warm and the water running. The most important way to overcome freezing pipes is through prevention.
According to the Building Research Council at the University of Illinois, research showed that the “temperature alert threshold” for pipes is 20°F. This is especially true for uninsulated pipes that run through areas that are uninsulated.
The best way to prevent freezing pipes is to spend the extra to insulate your pipes and spaces. Spending the extra money will prevent the more expensive cost of repairing water damage, which could be in the thousands if not prevented. The reason for this is that the property owners are responsible for fixing damaged pipes on their side of the water meter.
Following are a few tips for preventing frozen pipes.
What to Do in Case of a Weather-related Emergency
- You should keep your thermostat set to the same temperature throughout the night and day. During freezing cold temperatures, it is not the time to set the temperature lower during the night to save money on your heating bill.
- Should you be away from home for a number of days, you should keep the heat on in your house, set to no less than 55°F. You never know when the temperature will drop below freezing.
- If you have water pipe lines running through your garage, you should keep the doors shut.
- Another way to stop uninsulated pipes from freezing is to allow the cold water to drip from your faucets, especially those that are not insulated.
- Open your kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors. This will allow warmer air to flow around the plumbing, especially if your sinks are against an external wall. (Make sure to remove all household chemicals and cleaners if you have small children around.)
Sometimes it is out of your hands, as main breaks can happen during severe weather. If any water gushes down your street, you should call the authorities. You may also experience water discoloration.
This is why you need to keep extra water stored for severe weather as well.
General Steps for Preventing Frozen Pipes During Winter
- Unscrew your garden hose from your outdoor faucet and wrap it with insulation. You can use molded-foam insulating covers for this purpose.
- If you have a separate faucet valve for your outdoor faucets, shut them down during the winter.
The long-term solution, though, is to insulate crawl spaces, basements, and attics. The insulation will keep the temperature higher, further aiding in preventing frozen pipes. Make extensive use of the pipe insulation to safeguard any pipes that are vulnerable.
According to IBHS spokesperson Susan Millerick, “You can purchase pipe insulation at your neighborhood hardware store for as little as 50 cents per linear foot. It will help you avoid the trouble of expensive cleanup costs, the loss of valuables, and priceless keepsakes. The cost of your insurance deductible is not worth it.”
In addition to insulating your pipes, you should prevent drafts. Seal gaps and openings near windows, doors, and sill plates—that is, the places where the house rests on its foundation. You can do this easily by caulking around pipes where they enter the home. The caulking should be waterproof.
Ways to Thaw Frozen Pipes
You can check to see if you have frozen pipes. Do the following:
- Turn on your faucet. If there is only a trickle, you might have a frozen pipe. John Galeotafiore, in charge of Consumer Reports’ testing of power tools and household goods, advises, “If you believe that you have frozen pipes, be cautious when you attempt to thaw them. The pipe might have already burst, and the water may flow out and flood your house.”
- If the pipe is frozen after you checked it and it is damaged, use the main shutoff valve to turn the water off (the valve is normally near the water meter). This will turn off the main flow of water to your home.
- You should also remember to turn off your water heater at the shut-off valve. This is normally located on the cold-water inlet.
- You should check all your pipes by turning on the faucets. You might have more than one frozen pipe. If you find any others, you should follow the same thawing procedure for all the pipes.
If your pipes are all intact, that is, there are no burst pipes, and there is still running water, you can start thawing your pipes. Do the following:
- You can turn on the faucet and allow the water to run through.
- The ice plug melts when the frozen pipe gets heated.
- It is necessary for the water to be able to pass through. Even in freezing weather, running water through the pipe will aid in the melting of ice.
You can also use other methods to apply heat to the frozen sections of your pipes. You can do the following:
- Use an electric hair dryer to blow heat onto the pipe.
- Wrap an electric heating pad around the pipe to melt the ice inside.
- A portable space heater is helpful as long as there are no flammable materials close by.
- You can also soak towels in hot water and wrap them around the pipes.
It is crucial to steer clear of using anything with an open flame. It could cause more problems, as it might damage the pipes or start a fire. Do not use a charcoal stove, a kerosene heater, a propane heater, or a blowtorch. You should continue applying heat until your water pressure is fully restored.
A final thought is that if you cannot determine where the frozen sections in your pipes are or if you cannot access the frozen area, you should call a licensed plumber. The same applies if your methods of thawing your pipes fail.
Use Space Heaters to Heat Your Rooms
If your area is prone to temperatures below freezing, you might need to give your pipes some extra heat. If the uninsulated pipes are in a room that is not insulated, you may want to use additional heat to keep them from freezing.
A space heater will add the heat needed to protect pipes that are at risk. If you need it in your bathroom, you have to plug it into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. It is vital not to use an extension cord.