Here are some tips and tricks for avoiding, spotting, and thawing a frozen pipe at your house.
Brrr! Those chilly mornings earlier this week are just a preview of what’s to come this winter, so be sure to be mindful of not just your pets and your plants in the cold weather but also your home’s pipes and water heater. Butterfly Check Valve
Yes, those inanimate objects need some extra care, too.
As temperatures drop across the region, the risk of your home’s pipes freezing increases. There are some steps, however, that homeowners can take to help stop that from happening and help you avoid a hefty plumbing bill this winter.
Here’s a list of plumber-approved tips on how to keep a pipe from freezing, spotting a frozen one, and what to do if it bursts.
“It comes down to three main things: draining outside faucets, keeping pipes warm, and checking for leaks,” said Vincent Thompson, owner of Thompson Plumbing and Heating.
Over the summer, we use outside faucets and hoses to water the plants or simply cool down. However, water can freeze, and build pressure, ultimately causing a burst pipe, a situation far too common, according to Thompson.
He recommends disconnecting your hose, shutting the valve off that feeds the faucet, and letting the remaining water drain. Letting the faucet drip is also a good suggestion for inside fixtures.
When the freezing weather descends upon us, we bundle up to stay warm. Pipes need that treatment too. Ideally, the lowest you want to keep your thermostat set at is 50 degrees, but heating is expensive. According to Thompson, the absolute lowest you can go is 40 degrees, because your pipes will start freezing at 39 degrees.
Opening the cabinets underneath your bathroom sink can also be a good way to keep pipes from getting too cold. And for the ones in extra-cold spots, using electrical heating tape or fitting them with foam and rubber sleeves is a good idea. But, check for any leaks beforehand, because if the water is accumulating, they won’t prevent it from bursting and it will become an added step.
“Every drop that goes down the drain will turn into an icicle and eventually can clog up the entire soil stack,” explained Thompson. Not addressing it can result in frozen pipes, flooding, and even water backing up through your toilet.
After 50 years of handling these cases, he advises looking at your water meter because sometimes the leak might not be obvious. Make sure no water sources are open, and look at the blue or red triangle (depending on your meter). If it’s turning that can be a sign of a leak.
If you suspect the culprit is your toilet, he recommends adding a couple of food dye drops into the tank. If the water in the bowl changes color, your suspicions were correct.
Your house is filled with water pipes, and while it’s not hard to figure out when you’re dealing with a frozen pipe, it can be tricky to figure out where the frozen section is. If you turn on a faucet and nothing comes out, you’re going to have to do a little detective work.
The first step should be to try all the other faucets in your house. If all the faucets in a room aren’t working, the freeze is likely in a split from the main pipe. If all the faucets on a floor aren’t working, the freeze is likely between where the first- and second-floor pipes separate. If all the faucets in your house aren’t working, then the freeze is probably near where the main pipe enters the house.
The frozen section of the pipe, if exposed, will likely have condensation over it. You’ll also be able to tell that it’s colder just by touching it.
Before thawing the frozen section of your pipe, you should open the faucet to relieve the water pressure that has been building and allow the water to escape once it thaws. You should also begin the thawing process close to the faucet and work your way down to the blockage. If melted water and ice get caught behind the blockage, the chance that the pipe will burst increases.
One of the easiest ways to thaw a frozen pipe is with a hair dryer. You can also use hot towels or a heat lamp to warm the pipe up. Never use an open flame.
Sluice Valve Don’t panic. The first thing you should do is shut off the main water line into your property. This will prevent your house from flooding. The main water valve is usually near your water meter. After you’ve done that, call your plumber. Preventively tagging your valves can help make the moment less stressful too.