Frozen Pipe

This weekend’s winter storm left many North Carolinians frozen with snow on top of ice. Not only is it dangerous for travel and tree limbs, the cold can be crippling for your pipes.

When water freezes, it expands. When water is in a pipe, the expansion can put tremendous pressure on the material (whether plastic or metal), and the more expanding it does, the more likely it can cause pipes to break. This can cause a lot of damage to your home. The pipes you might be the most concerned about freezing are those exposed to the severe cold—outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines and water sprinkler lines. Interior pipes like those found in crawl spaces, basements, attics, garages and kitchen cabinets are susceptible as well. Any pipe that runs against exterior walls with little or no insulation can freeze.

Here are some tips from the Red Cross, where you can find more information.

Prevention:

  • Remove, drain and store your hoses during the winter.
  • Close your inside valves that supply to the outdoor hose bibs. Open, and keep open, the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain.
  • Following manufacturer instructions, drain water from your swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines.
  • Check unheated areas (crawl space, unfinished basements, attics) for any pipes and insulate them using heat tape, heat cable, or pipe sleeves.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces.
  • If you’re remodeling your home in the near future, see about relocating exposed pipes.

When you’re expecting extreme cold weather:

  • Keep your garage door closed.
  • Open cabinet doors in your kitchen and bathrooms to allow warmer air to circulate around plumbing. (Keep harmful cleaners and products out of reach of children and pets.)
  • For extreme cold, keep cold water dripping from the faucet served by exposed pipes.
  • Keep your thermostat set at the same temperature 24 hours a day.
  • If traveling, be sure to leave the heat set no lower than 55 degrees in your home. If a storm or deep freeze is expected, have someone check your home often.

If you go to turn on your faucet during a freeze and only a trickle of water comes out, most likely you have frozen pipes. Most likely, the frozen pipe can be found against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation. So what do you do?

  • Keep your faucet open—once you start to thaw frozen pipes, water will start to run, and running water will help expedite the melting process.
  • Using a hair dryer, portable space heater, or hot, wet towels, apply heat to the section of pipe that is suspected to be frozen. Avoid using blowtorches, kerosene or propane heaters or other open flame devices.
  • Continue to apply heat until full water pressure has been restored to your faucet.
  • If you cannot locate the frozen area, it isn’t accessible, or you cannot thaw the pipe, call the experts at Weather Master and Mr. Plumber.