What causes pipes to freeze and rupture
Below freezing temperatures and a lack of circulating water can cause almost any pipe to freeze. However, a frozen pipe does not necessarily cause extensive damage. Some plastic and copper pipes will burst or crack if frozen and will then leak after thawed or while thawing. If you have frozen pipes, be very careful when thawing them and check for busted pipes or slits.
What to do if your pipes freeze
- If your pipes freeze, don’t panic. First, check your pipes for splits or busts as this will cause flooding when the pipes are thawed.
- If you find a burst or slit in your frozen pipe, you need to call a plumber to fix and thaw your pipes or you may end up with water pouring out of your pipes as they thaw.
- If you do not find a split or break in your frozen pipes, these are the steps to thawing your pipe on your own.
- Keep the faucet running from your frozen pipe open, this water flow will help to melt the ice as the frozen area of your pipe starts to melt.
- Heat the frozen area of your pipe by using an electric hair dryer, electric heating pad, or space heater kept away from flammable materials (Never leave a space heater unattended).
- Continue applying heat until your full water pressure is restored to all faucets throughout your home. If you do not have full pressure in all of your faucets, you may have another area of frozen pipe.
- If you cannot identify the frozen area of pipe, or cannot thaw the pipe, you should call a licensed plumber.
What you should not to do if your pipes freeze
- Do not use an open flame to thaw your pipes. That mean no blowtorch, kerosene, propane heater, or charcoal stove. Using an open flame to thaw a pipe can thin out the wall of a pipe and make it more brittle which could cause it to burst when it may not have before.
- Do not attempt to thaw your pipes if you see a split in the pipes or a layer of ice surrounding your pipes. Even if you cannot see a split, a layer of ice surrounding your pipes is a tell-tale sign that you already have either a leak or a busted pipe. Thawing your pipe at this point could cause thousands of dollars in water damage.
How to prevent pipes from freezing
The best way to avoid freezing pipes and the water damage they can cause when they rupture or leak is to prevent the pipes from freezing in the first place. The following are ways that you can help protect your pipes from freezing
Insulate your pipes and your home
- Adding pipe insulators to your pipes can help to slow down the transfer rate of heat between your pipes and the cold air meaning that they will freeze more slowly reducing your chance of having a fully frozen pipe or having a pipe burst due to freezing.
- Adding insulation to your home can also help to prevent frozen pipes by slowing the transfer of heat between the air surrounding your pipes and the outside air. This helps retain above freezing temperatures in the space around your pipes.
- Keeping your thermostat at around 68-70°F and opening cabinets to help with the circulation of heat, or winterizing your home if not in use, can also help reduce the chances of freezing pipes when the outside temperature is below freezing.
Insulate your outdoor faucets and spigot
- Most homeowners do not have coverings on their outdoor faucets or spigots. A simple insulating dome or cover on your outdoor spigot can help stop the formation of ice that could eventually run back into your pipes.
- Also make sure to disconnect your garden hose or sprinkler hose from your spigot in the winter months.
Leave some water running
Flowing water helps immensely with reducing your chances of having a frozen pipe.
- Try leaving the faucet farthest from the water pipe leading into your home on at a constant, slow drip. This way the water will have to flow through most of the pipes in your home before reaching the faucet.
- Even if your pipes freeze, leaving a faucet running can help alleviate pressure in your pipes and reduce the chances of them bursting.
Recirculate Hot water
- To prevent the formation of ice crystals no matter where pipes are, there are temperature controlled thermal convection hot water recirculating valves available to allow for the constant circulation of water to stop the formation of ice crystals and freezing. While this method will increase our water bill, it can be much cheaper than damage caused by a frozen pipe and can be removed when temperatures are above freezing.
- There are also instant hot water circulators available to circulate water throughout hot and cold water lines intermittently based on the temperature in your pipes. This type of circulator will only circulate water in your pipes to keep them above a set temperature and will demand less of your hot water heater.
If you are in the Fox Valley area and have any questions or reservations about preventing or thawing frozen pipes in your home or business, feel free to call us 24/7 at 630-504-9594. We would be more than happy to answer any questions that you have.