More than just a minor inconvenience, frozen pipes are destructive and disruptive. That’s because the frozen water doesn’t just stop flowing through pipes – it actually expands and can cause pipes to crack or burst.
An 8-inch crack in a pipe can leak up to 250 gallons of water per day. That unexpected, unwelcome flood can ruin floors, furnishings, appliances, photos and other valuables.
Each winter, more than 250,000 U.S. households have their homes destroyed and their lives disrupted by frozen pipes. Oftentimes pipes burst while the residents are away for a few days. Residents turn down the thermostat in an effort to save money, not considering the potential damage that could occur. If they’re gone for a long period of time, the water damage can quickly turn to mold.
Here are some tips to manage and prevent frozen pipes.
Resolve the problem quickly
If your water pipes freeze, immediately turn off the water at your home’s main shut-off valve and call a plumber.
You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe with warm air from a hairdryer. Start by aiming the air at the part of the pipe closest to the faucet and move toward the coldest span of pipe. Never use a torch or other open flame to attempt to thaw a pipe.
Protect your pipes
A few simple actions may protect your pipes the next time temperatures drop.
- Let a trickle of water run from indoor faucets located along exterior walls. This dripping water provides relief from the excessive pressure that builds between the faucet and the ice blockage when freezing occurs. If there is no excessive water pressure, the pipe won’t burst – even if the water inside the pipe freezes.
- Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to pipes under sinks along exterior walls.
Weatherize your home before winter
Taking steps to winterize or weatherproof your home can also help prevent frozen pipes. Consider these tactics before next winter rolls around.
- Insulate the pipes in your crawl space and attic, which are especially susceptible to freezing. Pipe insulation cannot prevent water from freezing in pipes, but it can increase the time needed for freezing to occur.
- Heat tape or heat cables can be used to wrap pipes. Use these products only for their intended use (interior or exterior) and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and use.
- Seal leaks that allow cold air inside, especially near pipes. Double-check around electrical wiring, dryer vents and pipes. Caulk or insulation can work wonders when it comes to keeping cold air out and warm air in.
- Disconnect garden hoses when garden season ends. If the faucet drips even a small amount, water will eventually fill the hose near the faucet, as well as the faucet and the span of hose just inside the house. When temperatures drop, that water will freeze and damage will likely result.