Preventing and Dealing with Frozen Pipes
So far this winter, we have experienced relatively mild temperatures and very few major weather systems, at least here in Connecticut and Massachusetts! But, we should still be ready for anything Mother Nature could send our way. With the onset of potentially sub-zero temperatures over the next few weeks, freezing pipes become a concern for homeowners. Water expands when it freezes and when this happens it puts tremendous pressure on water pipes. No matter how strong your pipes are, metal or plastic, this expanding water can cause pipes to freeze and burst.
Remember, the best time to prevent frozen pipes is before the onset of cold weather. When it’s too late to insulate, the below tips offer steps you can take now to prevent damage to your home.
Tips to Prevent Frozen Pipes
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to let warm air circulate to the water lines under the faucet. Move any harmful chemical cleaners out of the reach of small children and pets.
- Keep garage doors closed. This is especially important if you have water supply lines in the garage or if your laundry room is adjacent to your garage.
- Open closets. Water pipes may run in the wall behind a closet. A full or closed closet blocks room heat from penetrating the wall and into the pipes.
- Get up at night. Periodically flush the toilet and run the faucets to move standing water.
- Trickle the faucet. Because moving water is less likely to freeze, let the cold water drip overnight to help prevent pipes from freezing.
- Keep your thermostat set to the same temperature during the day and night, especially if severe cold weather is forecast. If there is any chance of losing power, you may want to actually set your thermostat to a higher temperature.
- Shut off the main water line if you have no heat due to a power outage. We suggest you locate and test shutting off the main water line before it is actually needed.
Dealing with frozen pipes
If you turn on the water and nothing comes out or only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Before taking any other action, you should determine if a pipe has ruptured. If it has, turn off the main water supply line and contact a licensed plumber right away. It is important to take immediate action once you realize you have a frozen pipe.
If you’re lucky enough that no pipes have ruptured, your next step is to find the location of the frozen pipe. Usually the frozen area of the pipe will be frosted over or have ice on it. If you can’t find the location of the frozen pipe or if the location is not accessible, call a licensed plumber.
Here are some suggestions for thawing a frozen pipe once you determine where the frozen pipe is. These options are based on the pipe being exposed or accessible. If the pipe is behind a wall or ceiling, you have more limited options such as turning up the heat and waiting for the pipe to thaw, cutting out the section of wall or ceiling where the frozen pipe is and then treating it like an exposed pipe or using an infrared light.
Check all the other faucets in your home to make sure no other pipes have frozen. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze too.
Open the faucet where the frozen pipe is. Try one of these options to thaw the frozen pipe.
- If you have an electrical outlet near the frozen pipe, one of the best and safest options is to use a hair dryer to apply heat. You can also use a heating pad. Turn the dryer to the highest setting and move it along the frozen pipe from the faucet end towards the frozen area until the pipe has thawed. If the pipe is exposed and close to a wall, you can also put a cookie sheet behind the pipe to help radiate the heat.
- You can use a small portable heater to warm pipes under a sink or vanity.
- You can wrap the frozen pipe with electric heat tape. Make sure the heat tape is plugged into a grounded outlet to prevent electrical shock.
- If you don’t have an outlet nearby, try wrapping the frozen pipes with hot towels.
- Never use a blowtorch or any heating device with an open flame to thaw pipes.
- Continue to apply heat until the pipe has completely thawed and water is running again.
- Once the water is running again, keep the faucet open with the water running for several minutes to clear out any ice in the line.
Turn off the faucet and check for leaks. If you discover a leak, shut off the main water supply line and contact a licensed plumber to replace the pipe.