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Winter storm Helena didn’t bring as much snow as most of us expected over the weekend, but it did leave behind some very cold temperatures.  Whenever we see temperatures fall into the teens or below, we run risk of having water pipes freeze in our homes.  If you are worried about your pipes freezing or if you are worried about thawing frozen pipes, here are a few things you can do:

Preventing Frozen Water Pipes

  • Insulate hot and cold water pipes in crawlspaces, basements and attics.
  • Use foam insulation to cover any gaps in exterior walls.
  • Drip faucets to keep water moving through the pipes.  Flowing/moving water is harder to freeze.  Don’t forget about your hot water lines as well.
  • Open cabinet doors under sinks to help the heat from your home keep pipes warm.
  • Keep garage doors closed during extreme cold weather.
  • Weather strip basement windows and doors.
  • Disconnect and drain garden hoses.
  • Use foam covers to insulate exterior faucets.
  • Keep your thermostat set to 68 degrees or higher even if you are leaving for an extended period of time.

How to Thaw Frozen Water Pipes

  • Identify the frozen pipe by looking for areas on the pipe that could be frosted or have ice on it.
  • Heat the pipe from the faucet toward the frozen area.
  • A hair dryer is the best and safest way to thaw a frozen water pipe.  Open the faucet and then heat the pipe working from the faucet to the frozen blockage.
  • Heat lamps and portable heaters work well when set up under a kitchen or vanity base cabinet.  Direct the heater onto the frozen section of pipe.
  • Electric pipe heat tape is a ribbon type wrap that has electrical heating elements.  You wrap it around the pipe you want to heat and plug it into the wall.  A thermostat controls the temperature and the tape heats the pipe.  This can not only thaw frozen pipes but can also help prevent pipes from freezing in the future.

Things to Remember

  • If you have water pipes or your hot water heater in the attic, check them regularly when the temperatures fall.  Even though you have adequate insulation in your attic, pipes are vulnerable to the exposed temperature since you don’t have heat circulating in the attic.
  • Water lines running to and out of your water heater can also freeze.  Dripping only your cold water line overnight will not keep the water lines from the hot water heater from freezing.
  • Water pipes can still freeze on day 3 of extreme low temperatures even if the previous days are colder.  Don’t think you are out of the woods until the temperatures rise consistently.
  • Know where your water shut off valve is in your home.  Shutting off the water is the first step if a water pipe bursts in your home.
  • Call PHC if you experience a water damage emergency in your home.  We have water remediation experts on call 24 hours a day to help you after disaster strikes.
photo courtesy of wikihow
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