Being prepared and informed may help you to avoid the messy (and often expensive) issue of frozen pipes. The City of Prescott provides information and suggestions about how to prevent water pipes in the home from freezing, and how to thaw them if they do freeze.
Why Pipe Freezing is a Problem
Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the “strength” of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break. Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages or kitchen cabinets. Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing.
What Can You Do?
Now is the time to prevent frozen pipes. A structure with a one-inch outdoor watering faucet can lose thousands of gallons of water in one day if the water pipe freezes and breaks. That one day, at a minimum, could increase your monthly water bill by hundreds of dollars.
Unprotected pipes can freeze both outside as well as inside in unheated spaces (such as seasonally occupied structures, garages, etc.).
Before the Cold Hits:
- Insulate all pipes located in unheated areas. Inexpensive foam insulation is available at most home improvement centers.
- Seal leaks that allow cold air inside near where pipes are located.
- Disconnect outside hoses, wrap faucets and cover them with plastic or faucet covers.
When the Mercury Drops:
- Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to piping under sinks and vanities near exterior walls.
- The first sign of freezing is reduced water flow from a faucet. Check your faucets for water flow and pressure before you go to sleep and again when you wake up.
Before You Go Away:
- Set the thermostat in your house no lower than 55°F (12°C).
- Ask a friend or neighbor to check your house daily to make sure it’s warm enough.
- Shut off and drain the water system. Be aware that if you have a fire protection sprinkler system in your house, it will be deactivated when you shut off the water.
If Your Pipes Freeze:
- Don’t take chances. If you turn on your faucets and nothing comes out, seek the advice of a professional plumber. If you detect that your water pipes have frozen and burst, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve in the house; leave the water faucets turned on. If you cannot get the water turned off, call the City of Prescott’s utility service line at 777-1118.
- Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame. Seek the advice and assistance of a professional plumber. Do not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water because you could be electrocuted.
Don’t let water damage dampen your day. Spend a few minutes protecting your water pipes to save time and expense down the road. QCBN
Annikki Chamberlain is the water resources coordinator for the City of Prescott.