During the cold weather months, the potential for frozen water pipes is a risk that nearly everyone faces. Frozen pipes can
occur anywhere, and are more often associated with cold weather conditions. It may, however, occur when a series of conditions
combine. This involves not only sudden temperature drops, but also low set thermostats and poor insulation. The problem
associated with frozen pipes is that they may potentially burst or crack. Even if the crack is relatively small, such as a
one-eight of an inch, it may flood the home with as much as 250 gallons of water in a single day. As a result, the homeowner is
left with costly and extensive damage that may include mold or even structural damage. If this should happen, an emergency
plumber will be necessary to make the needed repairs. Fortunately, although cold weather and freezing temperatures are
inevitable in some areas, freezing pipes don't have to be. The best way to avoid frozen pipes, costly plumber calls, and
damage to your home, is to prepare and prevent it from happening in the first place.
In order to avoid freezing pipes, it is necessary to understand what steps one should take. Certain steps can begin even
before the cold weather hits. Prior to the start of winter, look for any holes or cracks in the outer walls. These openings
will allow cold air to enter near the pipes and will increase the risk of freezing. If leaks are discovered, seal them up with
either caulk or insulation. During the winter, use insulated sleeves on pipes that are vulnerable or exposed to cold air.
Insulation is important for both hot and cold water pipes, as they both have the potential to freeze. Sleeves may be made from
fiberglass or foam rubber. Because more insulation is better, thick insulation sleeves are a good option for outdoor or exposed
pipes. When temperatures are expected to drop, open up bathroom and kitchen cabinets to let warm air circulate around the
pipes. Electric heating tape or electrical cables may also be useful in keeping pipes warm; however, these must be used
cautiously as they can cause fires if not used properly. In addition, they must also be UL listed for safety. Finally, when
temperatures are expected to drop, let a faucet in the home drip. A steady drip or stream of cold water may help prevent the
water from freezing. It will also help prevent pipes from bursting by preventing pressure from occurring if the pipes do
freeze. It is this water pressure that builds between the faucet and the blockage of ice that causes the pipes to burst.
Insulation should also be added in the form of fiberglass batting around the attic vent pipe. Control indoor air temperatures
by ensuring that the thermostat remains constant as opposed to lowering the temperature at night, which would contribute to
already cold temperatures.
A person can tell when their pipes are frozen by turning on a faucet. If water only comes out as a trickle or not at all, it
is likely the pipe has frozen. To thaw it, begin by leaving the faucet open. When the water begins to melt, running water will
help speed up the rest of the thawing process. To begin thawing the frozen section of pipe it will need to be heated. This can
be done in one of several ways. One way is to wrap an electric heating pad around the frozen pipe. If a heating pad is not
present, a hot towel may be wrapped around the pipe. Blowing warm air from an electric hair dryer is another option. When using
the dryer, begin by heating the pipe as close to the faucet as possible and working toward the coldest part of the pipe. A
space heater may be used to carefully heat pipes; however, this method poses some danger and the heater must be kept away from
any flammable materials. Whichever method is used, a person should continue applying heat until the water pressure is back to
normal. Once the faucet is working normally, the rest of the pipes should be checked as other pipes in the home may also be
When a family is prepared for the possibility of frozen pipes, their risk of actually dealing with them will be reduced
significantly. This is because they will have already taken the necessary precautions to ensure that their pipes neither freeze
or burst. Because nothing is one hundred percent positive, it is still important to keep the name and number of a qualified
emergency plumber on hand in the event of problems.
For more information about how to prevent and thaw frozen pipes, please review the following links.