To avoid the messy and expensive situations caused by frozen pipes, you need to be prepared early in advance. Here are a few methods on how to prevent water pipes in your home from freezing and how to thaw them in case they freeze.
Why frozen water pipes are a problem
When water freezes, it expands inside whatever contains it, applying pressure to its surface from inside. It does not matter how strong the pipes or whatever vessel is holding the frozen water, eventually the pressure from the expanding water breaks it. The pipes that freeze most are the ones that have direct exposure to extremely low temperatures for example swimming pool supply lines, outdoor horse pipes and the water supply lines in the unheated interior parts of the house.
Preventing freezing water pipes before the onset of cold weather
You have to be prepared for the cold weather to keep your pipes from freezing. Depending on the directions from your supplier, the first thing you need to do is drain the swimming pool and the sprinkler supply lines. Avoid using antifreeze in these lines, as it is harmful to pets and humans. You should also drain and store all the lines used outside.
Close inside valves that supply the outdoor pipes and keep the outside valves open so that any water inside the pipe can expand without breaking the pipe. Check the whole of your plumbing for water supply pipes in unheated areas like the basement, attic, and any other crawl space. Find a way to insulate these pipes. If you do not want to install insulators, you can use newspapers to provide some level of insulation.
Preventive action during cold weather
There are several measures you can take during the cold weather to make sure your pipes do not burst from freezing water. If there are water supply pipes in the garage, you need to keep the garage doors closed as much as possible. You should also keep the bathroom and kitchen cabinet doors open. This allows warmer air from the rest of the house to circulate closer to the plumbing. Do not forget to keep medications and other chemicals usually kept in these cabinets out of reach of children. To prevent the pipes from freezing when it is very cold outside, you can run some water through them slowly.
You can also save yourself a lot of trouble by keeping the thermostat temperatures constant regardless of the time of day. Even though this may attract higher power bills, it is a small price to pay compared to the cost of repairing busted water pipes.
If you plan to be away from home during the cold season, you should leave the thermostat set to temperatures above 55 degrees Fahrenheit
How to thaw a frozen pipe
When you turn on the faucet and only drips come out, it is usually a frozen pipe. The pipes that freeze most are the ones against the exterior of your wall and the point where the main service water pipes enter your house. As you treat the frozen pipes, you should keep the faucet open so that water can flow out as it begins to melt. You can also run water through the frozen pipes to help with the melting of the ice.
You can use an electric heater pad wrapped around the pipe to apply heat to the frozen section of the pipe. You can also wrap the pipes with towels soaked in hot water around the pipes to provide some heating. An electric hairdryer and a portable space heater are also perfect tools for heating the frozen pipes. However, you need to keep these away from flammable materials.
You should avoid using open flame devices like kerosene heater, propane heater, and blowtorch or charcoal stoves. You should apply the heat to the frozen pipe until the water pressure is fully restored and the water is flowing normally and freely again. In the even that you are unable to find the frozen area or that the frozen area is inaccessible, you should call in a professional plumber and not try too hard to find or reach it. This might make things worse as you could do more damage to the plumbing than good.
Usually when one pipe freezes, others might have frozen as well. You should check the other faucets in the house and see how extensive the problem is. Well, whenever you are in doubt on what to do, always call in a licensed plumber to help.
In order to provide more protection and insulation to your pipes, you can relocate them to areas where they are more covered and less exposed to server weather conditions. You should also find a way to maintain higher temperatures in spaces like the attic and basement to add to their insulation. This will ensure that the pipes in these areas do not freeze and burst.