Every winter, many homeowners face the expense and inconvenience of frozen water pipes. But you can cross that off your list of winter worries by taking a few simple precautions:
- Disconnect and drain outdoor hoses. Detaching a hose allows water to drain from the faucet. Otherwise, a single, hard overnight freeze can burst either the faucet or the pipe it’s connected to.
- Insulate pipes or faucets in unheated areas. If you have pipelines in the attic, an unheated garage or cold crawl space under the house, wrap the water pipes before temperatures plummet. Hardware or building supply stores will have good pipe wrapping materials available.
- Seal off access doors, air vents and cracks. Winter winds whistling through overlooked openings can quickly freeze exposed water pipes.
- Find the master shutoff. It is where the water line comes out of the meter box at the street. If a pipe bursts anywhere in the house – kitchen, bath, basement or crawl space – this valve turns it off. So find it now. Be sure everyone in the family knows where it is and what it does.
- In severe cold weather, you may want to allow a faucet to drip a small continuous stream.
What if it’s too late?
What if you wake up one day to find the pipes are frozen anyway? During an extended cold spell, it can happen despite precautions.
Do you have the plumber’s telephone number handy? Write it down now before you need it in an emergency.
If you think you know where the freeze-up occurred and want to try thawing it yourself, do not under any circumstances use a torch with an open flame. The whole house could catch fire. Also, overheating a single spot can burst the pipe. Heating a soldered joint could allow it to leak or come completely apart.
The easiest tool is probably a hair dryer with a high heat setting. Wave the warm air back and forth along the pipe, not on one spot. If you don’t have a hair dryer, you can wrap the frozen section with rags or towels and pour hot water over them. It’s messy, but it works.
Be careful because the pipe may already be broken. It’s not leaking because the water is frozen. But when you thaw it out, water could come gushing out. Be ready to run for the master shutoff valve if necessary. Better yet, turn the valve off while untaking your thaw-out effort.
The main thing is to take precautions before cold weather arrives.
Source: American Water Works Association