In frigid temperatures pipes can freezeBe sure you’re protected BY PAM STEVENS | EDITOR Keeping your home and family safe in this unusually cold weather can mean the difference between life and death in some instances.
Knowing what to do and what not to do can make a huge difference when it comes to freezing pipes.
“Last year, the Snohomish County (Red Cross) Chapter responded to house fires caused by people trying to thaw frozen pipes unsafely,” Kris Krischano of the Snohomish County Chapter of the Red Cross said. “In a number of instances, the result was Red Cross helping displaced persons with temporary shelter, food and clothing.”
The Red Cross recommends the following to keep pipes from freezing and what to do if the pipes do freeze.
• 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. 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. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for installing and using these products.
• Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes. Even a quarter inch of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.
• Take preventive action during the cold weather.
• 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.
• 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 because the temperature of the water running through it is above 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 55ºF.
What to do if your pipes freeze:
The first sign of a frozen pipe shows up when you turn on your faucet and only a drip or two comes out.
“Locate the suspected frozen area of the water pipe,” Krischano said. “Likely places include pipes running 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 more ice in the pipe.
• Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, and electric hair dryer (do not use electrical devices if there is standing water), or wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water.
It is very important to take every precaution when trying to unfreeze your pipes.
“Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device,” Krischano said. “A blowtorch can make water in a frozen pipe boil and cause the pipe to explode. All open flames in homes present a serious fire danger, as well as a severe risk of exposure to lethal carbon monoxide.”
• 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 cannot 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.
If in doubt, call a plumber, before it’s too late. Keeping your family safe should be the top priority.
Enjoy the beautiful snow but make sure to follow the above advice for protection from the temperatures that come with it.