What to do about Frozen Water Pipes
The damages caused by frozen water pipes can be catastrophic. Just one burst pipe in a home running at 4-8 gallons a minute from a burst pipe can do tens of thousands of dollars damage in a manner matter of minutes, let alone the following mold mitigation problem. Once you have had a major water leak in your home, your insurance company may even cancel your coverage and you may lose your ability to obtain homeowners insurance. Contrary to belief, the pipe freezes and bursts 1st, then the water starts to flow once the ice thaws. For a burst to happen, the water super cools a couple of degrees lower than freezing in the pipe causing ice to form. It is the growth of the ice water to flow after the thaw.
1 – Prevention
- Locate and identify any and all shut off valves in your home and make sure they work
- Everyone should know where their “Main water valve” is and how to operate it
- Identify any potential problems
- Areas where pipes may be on outside walls, ceiling, crawl spaces, attics, etc.
- Seal any gaps around the home where cold air may penetrate and become in contact with piping. In the severe cold, especially wind driven, even a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze.
- Dryer vents, windows, cable penetrations, etc.
- Turn off and drain all standard outside hose bibs.
2 – When the temperature is expected to drop
- Open kitchen sink and any vanity doors of any potential problem area
- With pipes that are on outside walls that may be a freeze problem, leave a small trickle of both the hot and cold water running.
- Temporarily seal off any crawl space vents that may be around the foundation.
- Keep the house warm
3 – What to do if you experience a frozen pipe
(The first sign of a “frozen” pipe is reduced or no flow at a plumbing fixture.)
- If you experience a “no flow” situation.
- Turn off the “Main” water valve” to the house and leave the faucets “open” **
- DO NOT use any open flame to attempt to thaw the pipe
- DO NOT use any electric heater, hair dryer applied directly to the piping as any leaking water may cause electrocution
- Turning the water back on is best handled with (2) people. One person turning on the water “slowly” and the other walking about the house to be sure no water is running.
- Heat and patience is the best way to get the pipes to thaw. If you were lucky enough that it did not burst the first time, you may not be so lucky the next time. The pipe(s) that froze may already be fatigued so the next time they may burst.
- If water is flowing, turn off the Main water valve immediately and open the lowest hot and cold faucets in your home, I.e. basement laundry tray.
- We do recommend that if a freeze occurs, have a plumber check the pipes for stress and correct the problem so the situation doesn’t repeat itself.
** Be aware that if the water to your house is shut off, it may also turn off any fire protection system you may have.
4 – What to do if you leave your home in the winter
- Turn the Main water valve off to your home ***
- Leave the heat on to the house and set no lower than 60*
- Have a neighbor stop by daily, especially when the temperatures are in the 20s or below.
*** If you have “hot water and/or steam heat, the water must remain on even when you are not there. A neighbor stopping by is critical in the scenario.