How to prevent and thaw frozen pipes

water faucet
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

There’s no doubt that winter is here to stay for a while. With temperatures steadily below freezing, there are bound to be issues with frozen pipes in your home.

The American Red Cross advises homeowners to take steps before colder temperatures settle in to prevent pipes from freezing. If preventative steps aren’t taken, frozen pipes can still be thawed even when the thermometer only reaches to the single digits.

Preventing frozen pipes

Drain outdoor supply lines. If you have a swimming pool, lawn sprinklers or any other outdoor feature with a supply line, be sure to drain them according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Drain outdoor hoses. Cut off inside supply to outside hose bibs, but keep the outside hose bibs and valves open so water can drain.

Insulate water pipes. Check places in your home where water supply lines are unheated. Basements, attics, crawlspaces, garages and cabinets under sinks are places that are generally unheated. Consider insulating these areas.

Insulate exposed pipes — both hot and cold — with pipe sleeves, heat tape, heat cable or even ¼-inch of newspaper.

Close garage doors. If there are water supply lines in your garage, keep your garage door shut.

Let warm air circulate. Keep doors to your kitchen and bathrooms cabinets open so warmer air reaches the pipes.

Run water through pipes. Running cold water through exposed pipes can keep them from freezing.

Leave the thermostat alone. Don’t lower your home’s temperature overnight. Keeping the temperature consistent will lessen the chances of frozen or burst pipes. If your home is going to be vacant during the winter, set your thermostat no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thawing frozen pipes

A pipe is likely frozen if only a trickle of water comes out when the faucet is turned on, especially if it is located near an exterior wall. If you didn’t insulate pipes, drain outdoor hose bibs and drain outdoor water supply lines, frozen pipes can still be thawed.

Keep the faucet open. Running water will help to melt ice in the pipe.

Apply heat to the frozen pipe. Use an electric heating pad, hair dryer, portable space heater or towels soaked in hot water to thaw frozen pipe. Continue to apply heat until the faucet has full water pressure.

Keep heat away from flammable materials. Remove flammable materials from your work area. Also, don’t use kerosene, a blowtorch or any other open-flame device to thaw pipes.

Call a plumber. If you can’t find where the frozen portion of pipe is located or if you are having trouble thawing the pipe, call a professional plumber.


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