How to Handle Frozen Pipes
When winter arrives, it is important that you winterize your home, including your plumbing system. This is done to try and prevent frozen pipes, which run a high risk of burst pipes. If this happens, you have a plumbing emergency on your hand. Some pipes are more prone to freezing, including outdoor pipes that are exposed, along with pipes in garages, attics, basements, and crawl spaces, since these tend to be the coldest areas of your home. If you think you have frozen pipes, the following tips will help.
Take Necessary Preparation Steps
There are a few things you need to do before thawing out the frozen pipes. First of all, you should know how to recognize a frozen pipe so you can act fast. A sign of having frozen pipes is when you turn on the faucet and only a trickle of water comes out. If this happens in the dead of winter with no other signs of plumbing issues, it is likely due to frozen pipes. Keep the water supply on unless you think the pipe has already burst, in which case you need to disconnect the water supply and call an emergency plumber.
Try to find the water supply pipe at this point so you know which pipe you are dealing with. Follow the pipe to where it runs into cold areas, thus causing the frozen pipe, such as a crawl space or basement. If you can find exposed pipe in these areas, look to see if the pipe has already been damaged so you know if an emergency plumber is needed.
Thaw the Frozen Pipes
You are now ready to begin thawing the frozen pipes. It is more difficult to thaw pipes inside a wall with no exposed sections, but not impossible. If the pipe is in a wall, start by getting warm room air to the area by opening nearby panels or cabinet doors and keep your heater on. Also set up a fan that can blow the room's warm air at the wall to warm it up.
If the pipe is exposed, you have a few more options. The first thing you can do is to point a hair dryer at the pipe to begin warming it. Make sure your faucet is open when thawing pipes, so that once the ice melts, the water will run through the pipes and thaw them further. However, turn it on warm, not hot water. You can also try using a heat lamp or wrapping a heating blanket around the pipe. A portable water heater placed near the pipe is another good idea.
Prevent Frozen Pipes in the Future
Once you have successfully thawed the pipes, you are out of the woods temporarily, though you need to work harder to prevent this in the future. Improve the insulation in areas where frozen pipes are common to help reduce the risk. You may also want to install water pipe insulation to further prevent it. With hoses that are used outdoors but you don't need for the winter, remove them and drain them until spring. Also drain water from your lawn's sprinkler supply lines until you need to use them again.