How to Prevent and Repair Frozen Pipes
We at Scott Harrison Plumbing are often asked for tips on how to prevent and repair frozen water pipes. Homeowners ask for ways to safely fix it or at least attempt to repair a problem that is minor before calling our company. We decided to publish the following tips on how to prevent and repair frozen pipes at home.
Why is a Frozen Pipe a Problem?
Water expands as it freezes which is a unique property of this element that we all heavily rely on in many aspects of our lives. This expansion puts immense pressure on whatever container it is in, whether it be an ice tray or a metal or plastic plumbing pipe. No matter the “strength” of the container that is holding the water, any type of expansion can cause a container or a pipe to break.
Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hoses, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines and water supply pipes in homes. It often happens with pipes that are located in the unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets. Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing. Pipe freezing can still be a particular problem in warmer climates where they run through uninsulated areas of the home.
4 Tips on Frozen Pipes Prevention
Here’s an infographic on how to prevent the pipes in your home from freezing.
Prevention During Cold Weather
- Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children.
- When the weather is very cold outside, let cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed or uninsulated pipes in the home. Running water through the pipe even at a trickle—helps prevent them from freezing because the temperature of the water running through it is above freezing temperatures.
- Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent more costly repairs if pipes were to freeze and burst.
- If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set it to a temperature no lower than 55ºF.
Fixing Frozen Pipes
- If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Locate the suspected frozen area of the water pipe. The most likely places include pipes running against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
- Keep the faucet running slightly. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt more ice in the pipe.
- Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials). Another option is to wrap pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove or other open flame device. A blowtorch can make water in a frozen pipe boil and cause the pipe to explode. All open flames in homes present a serious fire danger, as well as a severe risk of exposure to lethal carbon monoxide.
- Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
- Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
- Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing. Pipes can be relocated by a professional if the home has been remodeled.
- Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
- For more information, please contact a licensed plumber or building professional.