How to Prevent and Thaw Frozen Pipes

prevent frozen pipes

You may think that you have no problems with your plumbing system, but when the temperatures drop to freezing temperatures, the water in your pipes can freeze. Anyone who has ever exploded a can or glass bottle in the freezer knows firsthand how otherwise stable objects can explode due to the fact that liquid expands when it freezes.

The same principle applies to pipes. Even though your pipes are in great shape, the added pressure that is created when water freezes is enough to cause a tiny crack which can quickly escalate into a full force explosion of water.

Next to hurricanes, frozen or broken water pipes damage more homes in the U.S. than anything else. The average homeowner insurance claim from burst pipe is just around $5,0000 (HouseLogic). To reduce the risk of pipes freezing and breaking, follow our tips and advice before it is too late. You don’t want to wait until temperatures drop to below freezing to form a plan.

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes:

  • Locate and become friends with your water shut-off valve. You will want to be familiar with this in case you run into a problem with broken pipes.
    • Your main shut-off valve is located near your water meter, if you know where that is. If you don’t know where either is, don’t wait until water is flooding your house to find it. If there is ever a leak in your home, you can become the home hero by running to your water shut-off valve and turning it off before further damage occurs.
    • Your water meter and shut-off valve can be located in one of several places. 1.) If you have a basement and crawlspace, the water valve might be located somewhere in the basement near the front of the house. 2.) If your house is located on a slab, look around your water heater or garage. 3.) If you cannot find the valve inside the home, the next place to look is outside. Most water meters and valves are located near the front curb of your house, underneath a concrete lid, buried underground. If you have any trouble locating your water meter and shut-off valve, give your Boulden Brothers plumber a call and they will help you find it or stop by to shut the water off for you.
    • The main shut-off valve is usually a gate valve, but in newer homes it might be a ball valve.Brass_Gate_Valve-shut-off-2-268
    • If your meter box is located in that concrete box outside of your home, you may need to purchase a meter key from your local home improvement store to be able to turn the valve. If it is an emergency, you may be able to use a flathead screwdriver and adjustable wrench in its place.
    • Remember the old adage, “Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey.” If you have a ball valve, turn the handle clockwise until it is perpendicular to the pipe. Once you have shut off the water to your house, look at the water meter. The needle and leak indicator should have stopped moving, indicating that water is no longer moving through your water meter.
    • Now that you know where your water shut-off valve is, you won’t look like a chicken with its head cut off the next time you have a leak in your house. You’ll know exactly where to go and what to do and everybody will love you for it.
  • If you leave your home for more than a day, make sure you set the thermostat at or above 55°F. It is not worth the risk of a broken pipe to try and save a couple dollars on your heating bill.
  • Open cabinet doors in bathroom and kitchen to allow warm to air circulate around your plumbing. If there are freezing temperatures outside and you have pipes located in cabinets and cupboards, open them to circulate warm air, especially if the pipes in question are next to an exterior wall.
  • If the temperature remains freezing for a long time, let faucets drip water slowly. This relieves pressure from the pipes and activates both your cold and hot lines (warm setting), which helps prevents pipes from freezing and breaking.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes:

  • If you turn on the faucet and the water is barely trickling out or isn’t flowing at all, it is likely that you have a frozen pipe. You can find out which pipe is frozen because it normally covered in frost.
  • Keep faucets open. As your frozen pipe begins to melt, the water and steam will run through the frozen area. The running water will help prevent pressure build-up when you are attempting to thaw your pipes.
  • There are several safe ways to apply heat to a frozen pipe. 1.) Perhaps the best way to thaw your pipe is to insulate the frozen section of your pipe with a thick towel and run hot water over it. 2.) You can also use an electric heating pad to wrap around the pipe.  3.) Another easy, but more time-consuming process, is to use an electric hair dryer, portable space heater, or heat lamp to thaw the frozen section. 4.) Home improvement stores sell heat tape that can be used on frozen pipes to quickly thaw the problem area. Whatever you do, Do NOT use any kind of open flame to thaw your frozen pipes. It will potentially damage your pipes and start a fire.
  • If when you finish thawing your pipes, you discover that a pipe has burst, call the experts at Boulden Brothers Plumbing immediately to prevent further damage.

Watch this video if you want a recap of what we went over:

For any plumbing need or emergency you may have, call Boulden Brothers Plumbing at (302) 368-3848.

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