Protecting and thawing pipes during cold weather

Protecting and thawing pipes during cold weather

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- No matter how strong pipes are, water that freezes and expands can cause them to break.

Pipes that freeze most frequently are the ones exposed to severe cold. Some examples are:

  • Outdoor hose bibs
  • Swimming pool supply lines
  • Water sprinkler lines
  • Supply pipes in unheated indoor areas such as: basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages or kitchen cabinets
  • Pipes along exterior walls with little or no insulation

Preventive action helps prevent freezing during cold weather:

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines inside.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors so warmer air can circulate around the plumbing. Move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of kids.
  • When temperatures are very cold, let cold water drip from faucets served by exposed pipes. 
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature during daytime and at night.
  • If you're going away for an extended time, leave the heat on in your home, set to no lower than 55ºF.

To thaw frozen pipes:

If you turn on a faucet during cold weather and only a trickle comes out, it may be a frozen pipe. Check all the faucets to see how many pipes might be frozen. 

Find the area of the pipe where it's likely to be frozen. Areas where pipes run against exterior walls or where water enters your home through the foundation are likely.

  • Keep the faucet open. As frozen area starts to melt, water will start flowing through that  area and the water will help melt more ice.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe with: an electric heating pad wrapped around it, a hair dryer, a portable space heater or wrapping towels soaked in hot water around the pipe.
  • Don't use any devices with open flames to warm the frozen pipe. Those include blowtorches and kerosene heaters. There's too much of a fire hazard with these devices.
  • Apply heat until the full water pressure is restored.
  • If you can't find the frozen area of the pipe, can't reach it or can't get it to thaw, call a licensed plumber for help.

Prevent future freezing:

  • Consider relocating exposed pipes
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. This will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
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