Frozen pipes. They’re the bane of almost every homeowner’s existence, especially those who live in climates where it gets, well, frosty. And while it’s an easy target for weather jokes, the truth is they are no laughing matter. Frozen pipes are not only a nuisance, but they can cause broken pipes, which can be very expensive to repair and replace. This article will serve as a primer for showing how to prevent frozen pipes as well as how to thaw them if they happen to you. Prevention, the Best Medicine Face it. Wherever you have water that can run when it’s warm enough, there’s the potential for frozen pipes when it gets cold. Wherever these places exist on your property it’s important to drain water completely or open them so water can escape before it freezes. Draining water from your swimming pool, sprinkler lines, hoses, and other locations where water normally is. Also, don’t use antifreeze unless directed to do so by the manufacturer. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful and toxic to animals and landscaping. Check around your home for other locations where water runs, especially in unheated locations such as a basement, attic and garage. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated to prevent freezing. There are several products available in most hardware stores that are excellent for insulating pipes in preparation for cold weather. These products are sold using the names “pipe sleeves” or similar nomenclature. Use “heat cable” or “heat tape” on pipes that are usually exposed to cold weather to prevent freezing. Even using 1/4 inch of newspaper around a pipe will work wonders to keeping it from freezing. After It Gets Cold Even after it starts to get cold outside there are several things you can do to prevent your pipes from freezing. Overall, these emphasize taking heat where there is none or little, such as keeping doors to your garage closed if there are supply pipes inside. Keep doors to under counter water pipes in your kitchen and bathroom open so that heat inside the room can get to the pipes. When it gets very cold outside, consider leaving the tap to your cold water slightly open to allow for a small drip, thus preventing pipes from freezing. Keeping your thermostat at the same temperature during both day and night will cause your heating bill to increase but the money you save on pipe repair bills will more than make up for it. When All Else Fails Sometimes, despite everything you try to do, your pipes will still freeze. In those cases what follows are some suggested solutions to the problem. If you turn on your faucet and you either get nothing to come out or just a trickle, it’s pretty safe to assume that you have a frozen pipe. When this happens it is likely that you have a freeze wherever your water comes inside from a non-insulated area such as a foundation. When this happens, keep your faucets open. As you treat your frozen pipes water will start to flow and the running water will help to melt whatever ice is remaining. If you are able to locate where you think the pipe is frozen, try applying a heating pad to the outside of the pipe to melt the ice. You can also use a portable hair dryer or small space heater applied to an area of piping. Soaking towels in hot water and applying them to the pipe will also work. Do not, under any circumstances, use a blowtorch, propane or kerosene heater, charcoal stove or any other device that uses an open flame. Eventually your freeze will melt and you will be back in business.
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