How to avoid frozen pipes in the bitter cold - ABC21: Your Weather Authority

How to avoid frozen pipes in the bitter cold

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(WPTA21) -

The sub-zero temperatures of the past couple of days are forcing homeowners to deal with the misery of frozen water pipes.

There are headaches that come along with the bitter cold, but there are also things you can do to keep the problems at bay. The City of Fort Wayne said many homeowners are calling in to report frozen pipes.

According to the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), approximately a quarter-million homes and offices have at least one room damaged by a frozen pipe each year. FLASH encourages you to protect your property this winter by following three easy steps:

  • FOAM: Insulate pipes exposed to the elements or cold drafts. By keeping your water warmer, you reduce the amount of energy needed to heat water in the cold, winter months
  • DOME: Place an insulating dome or other covering on outdoor faucets and spigots to reduce the likelihood of water pipes freezing, expanding and causing a costly leak; and
  • DRIP: Allow a slow drip from your faucets to reduce the buildup of pressure in the pipes. Even if the pipes freeze, the release pressure in the water system will reduce the likelihood of a rupture. 

The American Red Cross offered other tips to prevent frozen pipes:

  • Keep garage doors closed 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 harmful 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.

Even if you try your best to avoid your pipes freezing up, sometimes it happens. If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. The American Red Cross said likely places for frozen pipes include exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.

While thawing your water pipes, keep the faucet open. The American Red Cross said as you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe. To thaw your pipes, the American Red Cross says to:

  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or another open flame device.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
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