Preventing or Thawing Frozen Water Pipes
Frozen water pipes aren't life threatening, however frozen or broken water pipes do cause damage to homes each winter. If pipes in the walls aren't properly insulated, they can freeze and rupture. (An 1/8-inch crack in a pipe can release up to 250 gallons of water a day, soaking floors, rugs, and furniture.) To prevent the mess and aggravation frozen pipes cause, protect your home or apartment by following the simple steps below.
Before Cold Weather
- Locate and insulate pipes most susceptible to freezing, typically those near outer walls, in crawl spaces or in the attic. Use insulation made especially for this purpose.
- Wrap pipes with heat tape (UL-approved).
- Seal any leaks that allow cold air inside where pipes are located.
- Disconnect garden hoses and shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house.
When It's Cold
- Let hot and cold water trickle at night from a faucet on an outside wall.
- Open cabinet doors to allow more heat to get to uninsulated pipes under a sink or appliance near an outer wall.
- Make sure heat is left on and set no lower than 55 degrees F.
- If you plan to be away: (1) Have someone check your house daily to make sure the heat is still on to prevent freezing, or (2) drain and shut off the water system (except indoor sprinkler systems).
If Pipes Freeze
- Make sure you and your family know how to shut off the water, in case pipes burst. Stopping the flow of water can minimize the damage to your home. Call a plumber, and contact your insurance agent. Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch.
- Always be careful of the potential for electric shock in and around standing water.
For More Information
- American Red Cross: Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes
- North Carolina Cooperative Extension: Frozen Pipe Prevention