Frozen Pipes

24 11 2007

Night time temperatures are routinely approaching freezing. This increases the chance that your water pipes will burst as water expands to freeze. The expansion pressurizes whatever (metal or plastic) contains it, no matter its strength, and outdoor hose bibs, swimmng pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas (basement, crawl space, attic, garage, kitchen cabinet), pipes running against exterior walls with minimal/no insulation.

How to prevent in-pipe freezing:

  • drain water from pool and water sprinkler supply lines following installer’s manual
  • do not put anti-freeze in these lines unless explicitly directed
  • remove, drain and store hoses used outdoors
  • close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs
  • open outside hose bibs to allow water to drain
  • keep outside valve open so water remaining in the pipe can expand without breaking the pipe
  • insulate water pipes with a pipe sleeve or use UL-listed heat tape, heat cable or similar materials on exposed water pipes, butting ends tightly and taping down shut
  • even 1/4″ newspaper padding provides more insulation than nothing at all
  • keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines therein
  • open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to let warmer air circulate
  • when it is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes – even a trickle prevents freezing as water temperature running through it is above freezing
  • keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night – by suspending the use of lower night time temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill but you could prevent a more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst
  • if going on holiday during the winter, leave the heat on in the home set to a temperature of no lower than 55*F

To Thaw a Frozen Pipe

  • suspect it if only a trickle exits a faucet turned on
  • locate the suspected area – pipes running against exterior walls or where the water service enters your house through the foundation
  • keep the faucet open and apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater, or wrapping pipes in towels soaked in hot water from the neighbor’s home
  • do not use a blow torch, kerosene/propane heater, charcoal stove or other open flame device
  • apply heat until full water pressure is restored
  • check all other faucets for flow – if one freezes, others might also
  • add insulation to prevent a recurrence
  • call a license plumber if basic measures fail – do not try to be a hero

Stay warm tonight!




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