Your water pipes can be susceptible to freezing during the cold winds and low temperatures of winter. Frozen pipes cause expensive, frustrating, and unnecessary damage. Fortunately, it’s easier than you might think to protect your home. Follow these simple steps to help prevent your water pipes and meter from freezing this winter, saving you time, money, and hassle.
How to Keep Your Water Pipes from Freezing
When temperatures drop below freezing, it is possible for the water meter and water pipes in your home to freeze. Pipes that are most at risk for freezing are those in unheated spaces such as garages, basements, and attics. Pipes in poorly insulated exterior walls or under cabinets are also susceptible to freezing. Plumbing in older homes or that has frozen before is even more vulnerable. How to Prevent Frozen Pipes Video
Disconnect and drain outdoor hoses
Detaching the hose allows water to drain from the pipe instead of leaving it to freeze. Shut off the water supply to outside spigots if they have a separate shutoff valve. It only takes a single, hard, overnight freeze to burst either the spigot or the pipe connected to it.
Insulate water pipes in unheated areas
If you have pipes in an unheated area, like a garage or a crawl space, wrap the pipes with an insulating material like foam tubing or heat tape. Hardware or building supply stores will have wrapping materials available. Make sure to not leave any gaps without insulation.
Seal gaps and cracks in doors and windows
Winter winds whistling through overlooked openings can quickly freeze exposed water pipes. Seal places where cold air gets in with caulking or spray foam. Be careful not to plug air vents that appliances need to function properly.
Find your main shut-off valve and label it
Know where to access and how to use your main water shut-off valve. You can usually find it in your basement or crawl space near your water meter. Turning off your water quickly will limit damage and control costs in case a frozen pipe bursts.
Leave a pencil-lead-thin stream of water flowing
During the worst of a cold spell, allow a small flow of water to run from the faucet that is furthest from your meter. Water continuously flowing throughout the pipes in your home can help prevent them from freezing. You can also leave your cabinet doors open to allow the heat of your house to circulate around plumbing under sinks.
Turn off the water or leave the heat on when you're away
If you’ll be away from home for several days, turn the water off at the main valve and drain the outside faucets. Or, leave your thermostat set at 55 degrees or higher to ensure your home stays warm enough to keep interior plumbing from freezing.
How to Thaw a Frozen Water Pipe
If you turn on the faucet and no water or only a slight trickle comes out, there may be a blockage of ice somewhere in your plumbing. If the pipes are exposed, such as pipes under sinks or in a basement, you may be able to see the frozen portion of the pipe. Frozen pipes often have frost on them or may have a slight bulge. If you can't locate the frozen pipe or it's not in an accessible location, you should call a licensed plumber. If you have a frozen pipe that hasn’t burst or completely frozen yet, you can try to thaw it yourself. How to Thaw Frozen Pipes Video
Turn on the faucet serviced by the frozen line. This will relieve some pressure and, as the ice starts to melt and water begins to flow again, help melt the ice inside the pipe.
Heat the general area by increasing the room temperature where the pipes are exposed or placing a portable heater in the room.
Apply direct heat to the frozen pipe section using a space heater, heat lamp, heating pad, hairdryer, or heat tape. Always follow safety guidelines when using electric appliances. Never use a blow torch or open flame to thaw pipes. It creates a serious fire hazard and can cause more damage to the pipe.
If you start to notice water leaking from the pipe as it thaws, then turn off the water supply to that section of plumbing or the entire house.
If a frozen pipe does burst, shut your water off at the main valve immediately to minimize flooding. Contact a licensed plumber as soon as possible to repair the damaged pipe. You may also want to contact your insurance agent, depending on the extent of the damage.