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4 Simple Steps to Prevent and Thaw Frozen Pipes

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As temperatures plummet throughout the country this winter, many homes and businesses are at an increased risk of frozen pipes. According to Texas A&M University, water pipes can freeze and burst when outside temperatures reach 20 degrees or below.

Fortunately, there are simple, affordable steps you can take to help prevent your pipes from freezing. And if you do discover a frozen pipe, we have four hot tips to remedy that too.

4 Simple Ways to Prevent Frozen Pipes

  1. Address problem areas. If your outer walls, basement, or attic are uninsulated, it’s a good idea to purchase and install insulation—for the walls and the pipes. If the area is unheated, set up a space heater during frigid spells to keep the temperature around your water pipes well above freezing.
    • Even better than always keeping an eye on vulnerable pipes, install a system that gives you remote control, such as Sensor Solutions by HSB. The system monitors your building temperature and heating system and alerts you if a problem arises.
  2. Seal leaks. As part of your regular pre-winter maintenance, seal any cracks and penetrations into the building, including windows and doors.
  3. Use heat tape. Wrapping pipes in heat tape (or cable), which plugs into an outlet, adds another layer of thermal protection by warming the pipes as the temperature drops.
  4. Let water drip. Let warm water drip from faucets (particularly those against an outside wall) overnight when temperatures dip below freezing.

4 Steps to Thaw Frozen Pipes

Despite precautions you may have taken, pipes that are exposed to prolonged or severe cold weather—which run through poorly insulated areas such as garages, crawl spaces or against exterior walls—are always at risk of freezing.

How can you tell if your pipes are frozen? If you turn on the faucet and see only a few drops or a trickle of water, you could be dealing with frozen pipes. But don’t panic. You’re more equipped to handle the situation than you think. Follow these four steps to thaw a frozen pipe.

Step 1: Turn on the faucet. Opening the faucet helps to relieve the pressure in the system and reduces the chance that the pipe will burst. Leave it open as you proceed.

Step 2: Apply heat. There are several effective methods for thawing frozen pipes, including using a hair dryer, heat tape or a space heater. Never use an open flame torch; it could result in a problem much worse than water damage.

To use a hair dryer, begin directing air at the exposed pipe closest to the faucet and gradually move down toward the coldest section. Be prepared to spend at least 30–60 minutes.

Step 3: Continue to apply heat. When the pipe begins to thaw, water will begin flowing through the open faucet. Don’t stop heating until a few minutes after full water pressure is restored. This will ensure that the ice in the line is completely melted.

Step 4: Check all faucets and look for leaks. When water in a pipe freezes, it expands and can crack or burst. If you find pipes that have been damaged, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve, then contact a plumber to repair the leak or replace the burst pipe.

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