Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Frozen Pipes--How to Prevent and How to Deal

We are having a serious cold snap up here in the Northeast.  I have heard talk of reaching record breaking lows for this time of the year.  Serious cold can lead to serious problems with your pipes. 

There are a few things you can do to try to prevent frozen pipes.

1-Keep your heat turned up. Never let the temperature drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit and when it is particularly cold, you may want it even higher.

2-Open cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathroom to allow air to circulate around the pipes.

3-Make sure you have plenty of insulation around any pipes located in crawl spaces on the outside wall. This area gets cold faster than you may realize.

4-Let a little bit of water drip out through faucets and shower heads if you know it is going to be particularly cold. Running water is less likely to freeze than standing water.

5-Turn off the water valve to outside water sources such as a hose before it gets cold. They should have their own valve or handle separate from the rest of the water supply.

If your pipe does freeze, here are a few tips.

1-Turn up the heat.  Let it get fairly hot in the hopes that it will melt the blockage in the pipe before there is a problem.

2-Use an infrared space heater. Have it face directly at the wall where the pipes are located. Make sure the heater is at least three feet from anything that might catch fire.

3-Use a hair dryer to try to gently increase the heat on the pipe so that it melts gradually. Do not put the hair dryer directly against the pipe.

4-Never use an open flame to try to defrost your pipes. There is too much risk of fire.

5-Do what you can to keep it from happening again. This could be wrapping your pipes in pipe insulation or having insulation put in around the pipes. If you are unsure what to do, consult a professional.

If you are lucky, your pipe will thaw out and work just fine. If you are not so lucky, a thawing pipe can often turn into a burst pipe. This would mean gallons upon gallons of water rushing through your walls or ceiling.

If the pipe bursts,

1-Immediately turn off the water. Find your water shut off valve and turn off the water.

2-Call a plumber. Try to make sure they are licensed and insured.

3-Open the faucet a little so the water in there can drain out.

4-Put a bucket under any water dripping through your ceiling to catch as much as possible. Use rags or towels to wipe up as much water as you can to minimize damage.

5-If there is enough damage,  you may be able to put in a home insurance claim. Consult your insurance agent.

Good luck.


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