Boise winters are no joke. Another thing that is no laughing matter? Water damage from frozen pipes. Unfortunately, winter and frozen pipes go hand-in-hand. We at Red Truck Disaster Response know how frozen pipes can cause some serious water damage in your home, so it is important to know how to prevent pipes from freezing, how frozen pipes can lead to water damage, and what to do if your pipes freeze.
Standing water in pipes will freeze when the temperatures drop too low. The problem is when water freezes it expands. However, pipes do not expand. This expansion of water puts tremendous pressure on the pipes, and eventually the pipes will burst to relieve that pressure. Pipes that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs or water supply lines, are extremely prone to freezing. Other pipes that are more likely to freeze are those that are located in areas of the home that do not have insulation like basements, crawl spaces, attics, and garages. Any pipes that run along exterior walls of the home are also at risk of freezing. So, what do you do to protect pipes from freezing?
Before the temperatures drop too low, it is important to drain standing water from all outside water supply pipes like sprinkler systems, pools, and hoses. Standing water will freeze, so be sure to flush it out. You can also allow faucets to drip at a slow steady drip so that the water is not just standing still. If water is moving, even if it is just a drip, it will not freeze. You should also add insulation to areas of the home that get cold, or at least insulate the pipes in those areas. Pipe insulation can be purchased from most hardware stores, and different options of insulation are available to meet your specific needs. Some examples of pipe insulation are pipe sleeves, heat tape, or heat cables. Be sure that heat is able to reach pipes, so you may need to leave cabinet doors open to let the warm air reach pipes. To keep the temperature from getting too low, you should leave the thermostat set at the same temperature day and night in your home. All of these tips can help prevent pipes from freezing, but what happens if a pipe freezes even after all your best efforts?
If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, or nothing comes out at all, you probably have a frozen pipe. The first thing you should do is keep the faucet on so that as the water thaws it will be able to flow and relieve pressure inside the pipe. You should apply heat to the pipe by using an electric heating pad, hair dryer, or portable space heater and only keep the heating device on while you are monitoring the situation. If you cannot locate the frozen pipe, or are unable to restore running water, do not waste any time to call a licensed plumber.
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