Winter has arrived with a vengeance and with it, the chance for frozen water pipes. When uninsulated water-supply pipes are exposed to frigid air, the water inside can freeze, expand, and rip open the pipe. The resulting water damage can be extensive, depending on the pipe’s location and how long the problem goes unnoticed.
The following tips might help you avoid frozen pipes:
> Insulate all exposed water-supply pipes—not just the hot-water pipes—in the basement, crawlspace, attic, and along outside walls.
o Some experts seem to get good results with the thick foam-rubber type.
> Open the closets. Water pipes may run in the wall behind a closet. A full or closed closet effectively blocks room heat from penetrating the wall and into the pipes.
> Open cabinet doors. This lets warm air circulate to the water lines under the faucet.
> Trickle the faucet. Because moving water is less likely to freeze, as a last resort, let the water run just a trickle overnight.
> Identify the main water shut-off valve with a large tag.
o Be sure that each member of the household knows where the valve is located and how to shut it off in case of an emergency.
> Shut off the water. If the heat goes out due to a power outage, shut off the main supply line.
o FYI, a shut off is of no use if it can't be turned, so test it before you need it.
> Going on vacation? If you are going to be away from home for an extended period of time, turn off the main supply line or turn heat thermostat down to no lower than 55° F.
o And ask a neighbor to check on the house every few days just to be sure the heat is on. Be sure they know where the shut off valve is and how to use it.
If a pipe should freeze immediately shut off the main water valve to prevent any further damage.
> Use the hair dryer. Frozen pipes can be warmed by moving a hair dryer across the pipe, but do not hold the nozzle in one place for long.
> Never use a propane torch to try to thaw a frozen pipe. You might damage the pipe, or worse, start a fire.
If the worst happens and a pipe does burst or joint seam fails, turn off your main water supply and contact a plumber…and your insurance agent.