Frozen Pipe Prevention & Treatment
What you should know about frozen pipes
As temps drop, the risk of having frozen pipes in your home increases. Typical high-risk areas for freezing include pipes within exterior walls, as well as exposed pipes that run through unheated or uninsulated areas such as attics or basements.
By keeping an eye out for the warning signs of frozen pipes, you can help protect your family from needless hardship and unplanned expenses.
Signs of frozen pipes
Limited water: Lack of running water is one of the first signs of frozen pipes most people notice.
Bulging pipes: When water freezes, water molecules expand, causing tremendous pressure that can make a pipe bulge noticeably.
Gurgling sounds: If your pipes start making banging or gurgling sounds, it can indicate you’ve got ice traveling through your pipes.
Condensation and cracks: If you notice a pipe that’s covered in a layer of condensation or has small surface cracks, it may be freezing.
What should I do if I notice signs of frozen pipes?
If you suspect frozen pipes, shut off the water. You can turn off the water to the entire house or just the frozen pipe area, whichever is more accessible.
How quickly do pipes freeze?
Pipes can freeze in as little as six to eight hours, meaning they can freeze overnight. If the outside temperature is below 32F degrees and your pipes are unprotected, your chances for a frozen pipe increase.
Do frozen pipes always burst?
No, but ice does build up inside pipes, blocking unfrozen water from flowing.
Pipes made of copper, steel, PVC, and other plastics are all susceptible to freezing, with copper being the most vulnerable to ruptures when frozen. PVC and other plastics will freeze but do not always burst.
Will pipes thaw on their own?
Technically yes, but the “wait-and-watch” method carries risk. As that ice begins to thaw, any water caught between the faucet and the ice will cause increased pressure within the pipe. That increase in pressure can lead to frozen pipes bursting.
How to thaw a frozen pipe
You can use multiple methods to warm frozen pipes, including:
- Portable heater: Position away from flammable materials as needed;
- Heating cable: Affix to the pipe and plug into a nearby outlet;
- Electric heating pad: Wrap around the frozen pipe and plug into an outlet;
- Hairdryer: Slowly oscillate along the frozen pipe section;
- Towels: Soak in hot water and wrap around frozen pipe, changing when the towel cools;
- If you happen to have an infrared lamp, you can use that in a pinch.
Never use open flame devices such as a propane or kerosene heater or a blowtorch to thaw your frozen pipes. Also, never leave heat sources unattended.
Preventing frozen pipes
Contrary to popular belief, pipes don't burst at the point where water freezes. Generally, the failure occurs somewhere between the freeze point and a closed faucet. Winterize your home plumbing, stop frozen pipes before they happen, and prevent expensive water damage by following these few simple actions.