If you experience a frozen pipe, you need to know how to safely thaw your pipes to prevent a burst. A burst pipe can be an expensive repair; therefore, knowing how to thaw your frozen pipes safely can help minimize the risk of a break. Before winter arrives, you should help protect your pipes from freezing by:
Insulating your plumbing pipes in your crawl space and attic, even if these areas are not prone to freezing temperatures. To help protect your pipes, make sure that you insulate them properly.
Wrap pipes that are exposed to cold temperatures, especially those that are located outdoors or in unheated areas of your home with heat tape or controlled heat cables. If you have a mobile home, it is especially important to use heat tape, even if your mobile home is skirted. When shopping for heat tape, ensure that the heat tape is approved by Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. or another organization and they are approved for indoor or outdoor usage. Finally, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure they are installed properly.
If you know that temperatures are going to be below freezing, leave a faucet dripping to keep water moving and help to prevent freezing.
If your pipes freeze, do not use a blowtorch, open flame or propane heater to help thaw the pipes as this can cause damage to your plumbing system. If you find that you have a frozen pipe, it is important to realize that there may be more frozen pipes. Start by turning on the cold water side of the faucets in your house.
A small trickle of water can help to flush out a frozen pipe; however, it may take some time to clear the freeze. If you turn on your faucet and no water is running, it can help you locate the pipe or pipes that are frozen. If no water is running, it is imperative that you contact a plumber as pipes can burst or become damaged during the thawing process.
If you find a frozen pipe that you can reach, try thawing the pipe using a hairdryer. This will slowly warm the pipe and can help to clear the freeze; however, it is important that your faucets are on so that any air trapped in the pipes can escape. If you do not turn on the faucets in your home, excess air can build up in your plumbing and cause a pipe or multiple pipes to burst. Thawing pipes can take a few minutes or it can take several hours. Most of the time, it is best to call in a professional to repair frozen pipes because you can easily damage your entire plumbing system if you do not handle the frozen pipes properly.