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Frozen Pipes in Winter

If you’ve lived here around Oswego, Yorkville, Naperville, Aurora and Plainfield for even a short time, you know how cold it can get between January and March. With air that frigid, we of course want to stay as warm as we can at home. It’s also important that we keep another thing in mind: frozen pipes.

Pipes freeze when water sits in them as temperatures fall to 32°F and below. As the water thickens into ice, it expands. This creates pressure on the pipe between the blockage and the faucet.

Because the pressure has nowhere to be released, it can force the pipe to swell and burst or crack, which can cause a leak or even a flood. In some cases, just one leak from a pipe affected by freezing can release up to hundreds of gallons of water.

Some signs that you might have a frozen pipe can include:

  • slow or no running water
  • visible ice or frost on the pipe
  • odd smells (the blockage will return smells to your home because they can’t escape)

Pipes become particularly vulnerable to freezing at 20°F. They can still freeze above this reading under certain conditions, but this is the threshold at which many problems begin to develop. As a homeowner in Oswego, Yorkville, Naperville, Aurora or Plainfield, you’ll want to remain aware of any pipes that might be exposed to that threshold.

Unheated interior spaces – especially basements – will often be at higher risk. Some estimates suggest that basements can be the location of more than a third of all pipe failures. Other common areas where pipes can freeze are kitchens (e.g. under the sink), garages, attics, crawlspaces and rooms with outside walls (e.g. bathrooms).

A pipe also can sometimes freeze in a heated space if the space has a crack or other opening that allows cold air to seep in.

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

You can fend off the complications and stress caused by frozen pipes by taking a few proactive steps. You can also potentially save yourself even more time and trouble if you get started before bitter winter weather arrives.

A few prevention steps can include the following:

Disconnect hoses from outside faucets connected to the home. Also turn off and drain any pipes that lead to external faucets you won’t be using during winter.

Turn on faucets and let them run at a slow trickle. Even a small flow can help prevent freezing because it introduces warmer water into the pipes. As long as it is running, even cold water can help melt ice in a pipe because its motion carries more heat-producing internal energy than water that is still.

Seal leaks, cracks and crevices through which cold air can seep in, such as in attics, basements and crawlspaces. Inspect any windows near piping as well.

Insulate the pipe. Pipes should be wrapped with proper insulation to reinforce the greatest defense against freezing, especially for pipes that are near the home exterior or in unheated spaces. You can find tube-pipe insulation or heat sleeves at a hardware or home improvement store. You can also ask your plumbing professional what they recommend for the best safeguard.

Whenever possible, the areas where pipes are located should be insulated as well (e.g. attic, crawlspace, basement, garage). If you need a temporary solution before applying proper insulation, you could consider using sheets of foam board for larger areas. Though not as effective, they can help with some of the cold that causes pipes to freeze.

Keep the thermostat at a proper winter setting. Don’t allow your home to get too cold, especially if you lower the setting before you leave for time away from the house.

The U.S. Department of Energy suggests that an optimal setting during a winter day can be 68°F. This might sound low to some, but this setting helps conserve energy and reduce system stress when temps are cold. It can also contribute to better sleep for some people.

If you will be away from the house (e.g. vacation), the lowest recommended setting is 60°F unless you’re concerned about pets. The setting in winter should never be below 55°F.

Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets that may have pipes near the exterior. The warmer air that flows from your house into these spaces can help prevent the pipes from freezing. (Be sure to keep anything hazardous to children or pets out of reach when cabinets are open.)

What to Do When a Pipe Is Frozen

If you have a frozen pipe, sometimes a space heater can help to warm or thaw it as long you use proper caution. The heater should be near the side of the pipe closest to the faucet. Monitor the heater regularly and do not place it near anything flammable (e.g. curtains, papers, blankets, chemicals).

A blow dryer can be another viable option. Never use a kerosene or propane heater to warm or thaw pipes.

If you ever have a frozen pipe that has already cracked or burst and has started leaking, turn off the water to the pipe at the main valve (usually located at the meter or where the main line enters your home). Check all other faucets in your home to see if any other pipes might have frozen as well. Also be sure to shut off the power to any sockets near the pipe. If the leak is close to the circuit box, turn off the main breaker.

Contact Us Today

Aquaduct Plumbing is always ready to communicate and serve if you have questions or concerns about frozen pipes at your home in Oswego, Yorkville, Naperville, Aurora or Plainfield. We can help you identify frozen pipes, further inform you about preventing them and fix any sections that might be affected. Simply give us a call at (630) 504-9594.

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