Extreme Cold Temperatures Place Pipes at Risk of Freezing: How to Prevent This from Happening

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. It appears that the opening days of 2018 will be much like the closing days of 2017 — cold… and by cold, we mean beyond frigid!

The high temperature on New Year’s Eve in Wytheville, Virginia, are not forecasted to reach above the thawing point, while the low temperature the following day is expected to dip to 6°F.

The extreme cold temperatures for extended periods of time will place many homeowners at risk, as water freezing inside pipes will expand, placing tremendous pressure on both metal and plastic pipes, creating situations in which many homes may suffer from busted pipes.

According to the American Red Cross, pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, and water sprinkler lines; however, water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets are also susceptible to freezing — as are pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation.

Homeowners can reduce the likelihood of pipes freezing, however, by draining water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines prior to the onset of cold weather.

Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.

Adding insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces will allow these places to maintain higher temperatures during critically cold times.

Below are some practical tips on how to prevent frozen pipes, courtesy of the American Red Cross:

    • Keep garage doors closed 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 harmful 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 prevent 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 incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
    • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

  • If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

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