The chill of winter has its benefits. There is hardly anything cozier that a thick blanket and a cup of hot chocolate. But with the many perks comes some hassle. One of the things that winter blows in, aside from snow, is frozen pipes.
Frozen pipes for most people are an annual problem, particularly if you live in cold weather areas. There are ways that the problem can be solved: either change your address or make the cold go away. Since most people would not entertain the idea of moving and controlling the weather is not an option, there has to be a better way of dealing with frozen pipes.
The concept of a winter wonderland is only wonderful if it is outside of your water supply system. Thankfully, the solution is not complicated. Frozen pipes, with regular maintenance and attention, can be remedied.
Water Damage Due to Frozen Pipes
The reason why frozen pipes are a serious household problem lies in the physical properties of water. Once the temperature drops, the water turns to ice. It’s a simple and easily observed phenomenon. However, the state of the water is not the only thing that changes. Its size is also altered because water expands as it freezes. This action is not good for your pipes at all as they can break from the force of the expansion. Most of the materials used to make pipes, such as copper and plastic, can burst because of the freezing of water inside the pipes.
If the pipes burst, you may all be too well-acquainted with a flooded home. Not only is there a risk of damaging your property but it can also be quite a headache to clean up. It is important for frozen water pipes to be addressed and taken seriously because this problem can lead to flooded homes and up to several hundred dollars in repairs.
Prevent the Pipes from Freezing Up
The best way to avoid the trouble of fixing a frozen pipe is to prevent it from happening in the first place. There are certain things that you can do to ensure that your pipes remain safe throughout the year. It must be noted that the prevention of frozen pipes should happen even before the cold sets in.
The first thing you need to do is to insulate the exposed pipes from the cold. Adding a pipe sleeve or a heat tape or another similar material is a great way to prevent the freezing of pipes. Building suppliers offer a wealth of products that will ensure that the system continues to work properly.
It is important to follow the instructions when using these suggested products. Otherwise, they will not be as effective. Generally, the instructions are easy and simple to follow. They usually instruct the person to wrap the pipe, leaving some excess material at the ends.
For those who want to protect their pipes, there is an item regularly found in homes that can be quite useful when it comes to insulation. Surprisingly, newspapers are a great way to prevent frozen pipes in the home. If you want to save money, you can use the dailies to cover pipes located in areas that are not frequently exposed to the cold.
Another way to prevent water frozen pipes is to get rid of the water. Water that can be drained should be done so. Swimming pools and sprinklers are only some instances when you can actually afford to forego them for a while.
Instead of draining the water, some people opt to use antifreeze. This method is actually not recommended. Putting antifreeze in your system can prove to be more trouble than it’s worth. Your pipes may not be frozen, but you exchange this with other problems. Since antifreeze is toxic, the price that you pay can be in the form of a damaged environment or poisoned pets or even humans.
Other items that you can decommission for a while to prevent water damage from frozen pipes are outdoor hoses. The way to do this is to shut off the indoor water valve providing water to these outlets while keeping the hose bibs open. This will give the water an opportunity to completely drain way. It is also a good idea to keep the outside water valve open so that in case there is water left inside the pipe, it can expand without any risk of bursting.
Even before the cold weather sets in, you should already conduct a thorough inspection of your home. Check the pipes for any weak points that may need to be repaired or insulated. Pay close attention in the areas of your home that are left particularly cold. Basements, attics, and bathroom cabinets are rarely heated so they are more prone to water damage.
It is a misconception that only those pipes servicing cold water are the only ones that can freeze. Even pipes containing hot water need to be insulated. They too can also freeze up if the water is not flowing constantly and the weather gets cold enough.
When you are going on a trip or leaving your home for a length of time, it is suggested that you keep the heat in your home on. It may seem like a waste but it is actually an investment. Having some warmth in your home will prevent the pipes from freezing, saving you the time and resources you may have to use in fixing them if they do get broken. There is no need to maintain a high level of heat. You just need enough to keep the water pipes warm.
Finally, a good tip to keep the water pipes from being damaged by the cold is to leave the faucets running when the water gets exceptionally cold. The constant flow of the water will heat up the pipes enough to prevent them from freezing over.
Thaw out the Frozen Pipes
If, despite all your efforts, you find yourself with frozen pipes, all hope is not lost. There are some steps that you can take that will remedy the problem.
The first thing that you will need to do is to diagnose whether or not the water pipes are frozen in the first place. You will know that the pipes have been frozen if no water comes out of the faucet. If the weather is cold out and the supply of water is available, then the problem may be in the pipes.
When this happens, keep the faucets on. When the ice melts, this will give the water an opportunity to keep on flowing. The act of water flow will help warm the pipes, allowing it to thaw out any of the ice that may still be in there. You can also aid the melting process by placing a heating pad around the clogged pipe. If you don’t have a heating pad, you can dip towels in warm water before wrapping them around the pipe. Another option would be to use a hair dryer to warm up the system.
Keep in mind that direct heat should not be applied to the pipes. Items such as blowtorches should not be used to thaw out the pipes. This will surely cause more damage than good. Not only is there a risk for your home to catch fire, but there are also other hazards to be aware of. The first is that heating the pipes too fast will allow the water to boil. When this happens, there is a chance that the pipes could explode and scald you. Another important reason why sources of open flames should not be used is because it can release carbon monoxide, effectively poisoning the air in your home.
Another precaution when heating the pipes is to make sure that before you use anything to heat up the area, you remove any item that can burst out into flames. It does not matter if the source of your heat is not very powerful. You must always take the necessary precautions that may endanger your home as well as its occupants.
Maintain the application of heat until the flow of the water returns to normal. Check the faucets occasionally to determine whether or not the water flow is restored. If everything is running smoothly again, you can stop the heat. If not, just be patient and continue to supply low, constant heat to the frozen pipe.
Keep in mind that pipes can freeze up easily when the weather gets cold. To spot problem areas, you should always run a regular maintenance check to see if all your water pipes are working properly. If you encounter difficulty in finding out where the problem is, then that is the time when you can call in the big guns. A licensed plumber will be able to determine which pipe is frozen so do not hesitate to avail of the services of one in case it is needed.