05 Oct Common Problems Caused by Frozen Pipes
On another freezing cold day, nothing is worse than turning on the shower for an unwelcome surprise. Instead of a stream of water that will soon be steaming hot, you hear an odd gurgle meaning you have frozen water pipes. This common plumbing issue can become a plumbing disaster if you don’t remedy the situation immediately.
Biggest Risk for Frozen Pipes
Any water source on the exterior of your home is at risk for freezing during prolonged cold spells where the temperature stays below 32 degrees. Hose bibs, water pipes to the pool or Jacuzzi, sprinkler lines, or pipes running along the exterior of the house have the greatest risk of freezing.
Interior water pipes can also freeze especially during prolonged cold snaps with sub-zero temperatures. Pipes in the garage, in the basement, crawl spaces, an attic, or even beneath cabinets, can all potentially get cold enough to freeze, and potentially cause major water damage.
What Causes Frozen Pipes to Burst?
It is not just the ice that causes the damage to pipes as you might think. Water has a unique property that causes it to expand when it freezes. When that happens, the pipe blocked by ice is place under enormous pressure from the expansion of the water and from the flow of water pressure against a closed valve. This issue is ultimately what does the pipe in, no matter whether it is metal or plastic.
When that happens, damage can range from minor to catastrophic if it is not caught in time. If you suspect you have frozen pipes, always call a professional plumber to help you avoid costly water damage and prevent them from freezing again.
If You Have Frozen Pipes
If it has been very cold and the faucet is not dispensing water, then take immediate action. Turn all the faucets to the on position to relieve water pressure in them. Then call a plumber.
If a pipe does rupture, quickly shut off the main water valve where public water flows into the house, usually near the water meter.
- Attempt to thaw frozen pipes with an open flame device like a blowtorch. Besides putting yourself at great personal risk, you will most likely further damage the pipe and cause a flood that will require extensive and costly clean up.
- Some websites might suggest using a handheld hair dryer or small heater to thaw the pipes, but using any kind of electrical device around a water source is dangerous.
Call a professional plumbing company and let them take care of the problem so that you are spared the inconvenience and cost of losing access to you home’s water supply or ruined flooring and personal items.
Prevention is Key
The best way to deal with frozen water pipes is to prevent them from happening in the first place. There are many simple things that you can do to spare yourself the hassle and expense of frozen pipes.
Always drain all pool and sprinkler lines, exterior hose bibs and stow away outdoor hoses. Never put anti-freeze in water hoses or pipes, as it is toxic to humans, pets, wildlife and landscaping.
Cover exterior pips with pipe sleeves, which are usually very inexpensive. There are other ways to protect exposed water pipes that require a bit more expertise than pipe sleeves (like a UL-listed heat cable) and should be discussed with a professional plumber.
During prolonged cold spells, be sure to keep the garage closed and open cabinet doors beneath the kitchen sink and in the bathrooms to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes.
Keep your thermostat at a steady temperature day and night. While you may have a slight increase in your heating bill, it could save you thousands of dollars in flood repair from a frozen pipe.
You can also drip your faucets when freezing temperatures arrive. Even slow moving water can freeze, but if it does, the open valve will release the pressure from ice expansion and keep the pipe from bursting, Be sure to drip the hot and cold faucets if they are separate. The additional water used could save your pipes from freezing which will cost substantially more to repair.
If you are going away for a prolonged period of time, do not set your thermostat below 55 degrees. It is also a good idea to ask a neighbor to check in on your home periodically to be sure the heat is working properly. If there is a ruptured pipe, your neighbor can shut off the water to the house and call a plumber right away to avoid further water damage.
The Benefits of Using a Professional Plumbing Service
Sometimes freezing cold temperatures can sneak up on you and freeze your pipes. Calling professional plumbers will ensure that you get the problem fixed right away, safely. We can inspect all the pipes in and around the house to find any other problem areas and take the steps necessary to protect them from freezing again. In some cases, it might be necessary to reroute pipes ensure that does not happen.
Having your home inspected before the worst of winter sets in, especially if you have exterior pipes or hoses, is a smart way to prevent frozen pipes and save you a lot of time, inconvenience and money.