Winter weather is upon us for much of North America and with that comes the usual cold weather headaches, including the risk of snow, sleet and ice along with flu season and freezing temperatures. Those low temperatures can also bring a specific plumbing complication for homeowners – frozen pipes.
A frozen pipe is a ordinary, yet sometimes large-scale plumbing issue to face. When the weather turns cold and the temperature dips below freezing, the water in your home’s pipes may freeze and enlarge, which lead to anything from a minor leak to large-scale flooding.
There are a few signs that can alert you to a frozen pipe. If you notice a water line covered in frost or any lumps within the pipe, that is a pretty distinct sign that your water pipe is frozen. While it may seem obvious to know if your water lines are frozen, just understand that not all plumbing pipes are easy to see. If you turn on the sink and the water is not running, or not flowing properly, or your toilets won’t refill after a flush, that’s also a sign that your pipes are likely frozen.
So what can you do if you think your pipes might be frozen? It is very important to turn off the power to your water supply before you try to thaw your pipe in order to keep the pipe from breaking. Try warming the frozen area of the pipe with heated water or packing towels that have been soaked in hot water around your water pipes. If these steps don’t solve the problem, call a professional plumber in to assist. Do not attempt to use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, or anything else with an open flame, as these are fire hazards.
If the pipe has actually burst, begin soaking up the water with a mop, rags or sponges to clean up as much as you can before it causes damage. If the damage is critical, go ahead and reach out to your insurance agent – some homeowners insurance policies cover burst pipes that cause water damage.
The American Red Cross recommends taking these measures to stop your pipes from freezing:
Keep garage doors sealed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any toxic cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
If these preventative steps are not successful and you find yourself faced with frozen pipes this winter, call the plumbing Experts—available 24/7/365— to help at 540-302-8645 or schedule an appointment online.