Winter weather has arrived for much of North America and with that comes the normal cold weather hardships, including the risk of snow, sleet and ice along with flu season and freezing temperatures. Those low temperatures can also bring a specific plumbing problem for homeowners – frozen pipes.
A frozen pipe is a ordinary, yet sometimes major plumbing issue to encounter. When the weather turns cold and the temperature is below freezing, the water in your home’s pipes may freeze and enlarge, which lead to anything from a small leak to full-fledge flooding.
There are several signs that can reveal a frozen pipe. If you see a water line covered in frost or any lumps within the pipe, that is a pretty sure indication that your water pipe is frozen. While it may seem obvious to know if your water lines are frozen, just know that not all plumbing pipes are always visible. 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 an indicator that your pipes may be frozen.
So what can you do when you think your pipes are frozen? It is crucial to switch off the power to your water supply before you try to thaw your pipe in order to stop 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 actions don’t solve the problem, call a professional plumber in to assess the situation. Never 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 contact your insurance agent – some homeowners insurance policies cover burst pipes that lead to water damage.
The American Red Cross recommends taking these actions to prevent your pipes from freezing:
Keep garage doors shut 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 stop 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 have a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
If you will be traveling during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
If these preventative steps do not work and you find yourself faced with frozen pipes this winter, call the plumbing Experts—available 24/7/365— to help at 512-596-1257 or schedule an appointment online.