FROZEN: How to Prevent and Thaw Frozen Pipes
This morning, hundreds of record low temperatures for the date have been reported along with thousands of reports of frozen pipes. Winter simply won't release us from its clutches. Although the weather is warming up this weekend, homeowners are still worried about the risks of freezing weather on their plumbing systems, and rightly so!
As you probably know, when water freezes it expands, sometimes so much so that it causes a rupture in your plumbing pipes. So, what can be done to prevent frozen pipes?
Our very own Master Plumber Shawn Rannels provided some tips on PBS 13 yesterday:
For more in-depth tips on preventing and thawing frozen pipes, read on:
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes
Luckily, there are many easy things that you can do to prevent a frozen pipes from wreaking havoc on your home:
Drain water from swimming pool, sprinkler, and irrigation systems.
Disconnect and store your outdoor hoses and leave outdoor faucets open (a trickle).
Open up all cabinets in your kitchen and bathroom to allow warm air to circulate around your pipes.
If temperatures are consistently freezing, let all of your faucets trickle some warm water.
This will relieve pressure in your pipes and the warm water will work to prevent freezing.
Set your thermostat to at least 55°F at all times
It's not worth the risk to your plumbing systems to try and save a couple dollars on your heating bill.
Insulate pipes and/or faucets.
Plumbing insulation foam can be purchased at your local hardware store. Remember to set insulation flush against each other, using tape to connect them. And don't forget to insulat the bends or corners of pipes as well, where freezing is most likely to occur.
You can also purchase heat tape to use on exposed water pipes. Read and follow the manufacturer instructions carefully.
Keep your garage closed, espcially if there are pipes in there.
Unfortunately, even with preventative measures, pipes can still freeze.
How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
You turn on your faucet and no water is coming out. Uh-oh! Frozen water in your pipes is probably blocking water from flowing. The sooner you relaize you have frozen pipes, the better your chances of rectifying the situation before it turns into a full blown catastrophe.
Warning: Do NOT use any open flame device! This could cause the pipe to rupture in addition to other risks.
The very first thing you should do is leave your faucet open and turn on other faucets to see if water is blocked there as well. Leaving the faucet open to a warm trickle will faciliate the thawing of your pipes.
The next thing you need to know is where your main water shut-off valve is. It is usually right next to your water meter. Your water meter can be found in one of three places:
near the front wall in your basment.
near your water heater (located in the garage or basement)
outside near the front curb of your home in a cememnt box, called a "curb stop."
here is a video that shows you how to locate your main water shut-off valve:
if you are still having difficulty locating your main water shut-off, call your local plumber!
Once you have located your main water shut-off, go ahead an turn it to the right (clockwise) to turn it off. If you know of intermediate water valves in your home, you can turn off the water supply to isolate the frozen pipe section.
Once all of the faucets are oppen and the main water line is shut off, you can begin the thawing process.
Thaw your pipe using one of the following methods:
hand-held blow dryer or the more hi-tech heat gun
warm water-soaked towl wrapped around the frozen section of pipe
leave an electric space heater running near your frozen pipes
wrap the frozen pipe section with electric heat tape
To thaw a frozen drain pipe, try pouring hot water down the drain until the pipe is completely melted.
For more information or help with preventing or thawing your frozen pipes, contact your local plumbing professional.
Here is a recap of everything we went over: