Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes

Nov 03 2016

Welcome to winter. Winter? Didn’t fall just start? Yes, it did, but the cold is creeping up on us in Colorado and that means the potential for freezing pipes. A burst frozen pipe can cause anywhere from 2,000 dollars in damage, to upwards of 100,000. That’s a lot of money you probably don’t have. Preventing them from freezing is often simple, and will save you time, money and stress.

Preventing Frozen Pipes

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If when you turn on the kitchen faucet and only a trickle of water comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Pipes running along exterior walls are the most likely to freeze. Where pipes enter the house through the foundation are also likely to freeze. What can you do? Here’s 4 simple prevention tips.

  1. Remove and drain all outside hoses connected to the house. Store these hoses in the garage or shed. Leave the outside water valve open to let water drain. If water freezes and expands in an open valve, it won’t expand and break the pipe.
  2. Drain water from the swimming pool and sprinkler lines, following any manufacturers instructions. Not sure how to do this? Here are three common ways to winterize your sprinkler lines.
  3. Pipes located in areas where heat isn’t able to penetrate are at serious risk of freezing. Check under kitchen and bathroom cabinets, crawl spaces, attics, and basements and consider adding extra insulation to those areas.
  4. There are many insulation products perfect for preventing water pipes from freezing. Look for “pipe sleeves”, and UL listed “heat tape” at your local hardware store. Products of similar material will work as well. Even a 1/4 inch of newspaper wrapped around water pipes can provide a decent level of insulation. Click here for pipe insulation options at Lowe’s.

Thawing Frozen Pipes

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As hard as you might try to prevent frozen pipes, temperatures ranging in the 0-20 degrees fahrenheit is still cold enough to freeze pipes that aren’t perfectly insulated. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Apply heat to the section of the frozen pipe using an electric heating pad, electric hair dryer, portable space heater (keep away from flammable material), or wrap a hot towel around the pipe.
  2. Keep the faucet open. Depending on how frozen the pipe is, and how much of the pipe is frozen, this process could take an hour or an entire day. Keeping the faucet open will allow melting water to run through the pipe and speed up the thawing process.
  3. Check for other frozen  pipes. When one pipe freezes, the likelihood of other freezing goes up.