Preventative measures help stop
pipes from freezing
Snarled traffic, long lines at the gas pumps and grocery stores may be the least of your concerns if your water pipes freeze.
Water is unique in a way that when it freezes, it expands.
Once this happens, there’s almost nothing that can contain it including plastics and metal.
The frozen water can expand with such a force that it can crack metal pipes, and break the popular PVC pipes used in many homes, and sprinkler systems.
Here are some tips provided by the American Red Cross on preventative measures you can take to keep your water pipes safe from freezing.
Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of these water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations.
•Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer’s or installer’s directions.
•Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed.
Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
•An additional way to force the water out of your sprinkler system is to open all valves, and use a compressor or shop-vac to blow air through the lines to clear out any remaining water.
•Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors.
•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.
Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located and are in unheated areas.
Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
A hot water supply line can freeze just as a cold water supply line can freeze if the water is not running through the pipe and the water temperature in the pipe is cold.
Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a “pipe sleeve” or installing UL-listed “heat tape,” “heat cable,” or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Many products are available at your local building supplies retailer.
Pipes should be carefully wrapped, with ends butted tightly and joints wrapped with tape.
Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for installing and using these products. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes and can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.
After the freeze, thawing can be as important as preventative care when it comes to maintaining water lines.
Lowes and the American Red Cross offer the following precautions to thawing frozen pipes.
•Before thawing frozen pipes, check to see if they have burst or are leaking. You will need to make repairs before thawing the ice in the pipes.
•Shut off the water supply to the pipe. If there is no valve in the line to allow you to do this locally, shut off the flow of water to your whole house at the main water cut-off valve.
•Open a couple of faucets to provide an outlet for melting ice or steam.
•Work back toward the water supply from the faucet side of the frozen area.
Several methods can be used to do the actual thawing. They all require caution, however.
The pipes must not be heated too quickly, and the water in the pipes must not be allowed to boil. The resulting steam pressure in the pipes could cause them to burst.
Do not allow the pipe to become too hot to touch.
Plastic pipe should be warmed with particular care.
The following are some Suggestions
•You can wrap rags around the pipe in the frozen area and pour hot water on the rags. Keep the wet rags hot by pouring more hot water on them as they cool.
•Wrap a grounded, heat strip around the frozen pipe.
•Use a hairdryer focused on the frozen area of the pipe.
•Use a space heater directed to the frozen area of pipe.
•Never use electrical tools or appliances if you are wet, or standing in water.