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Prevent Frozen Pipes and How to Thaw Them if They do Freeze– Worcester, Boston

29 Jan 2014

We have had our fair share of below freezing temperatures in Boston and Worcester this winter. Plumbers have been busy this winter because when the temperature plummets, the risk of having frozen pipes goes up. Frozen pipes are one of the most common causes of property damage during this kind of weather. The frozen pipes most often occur in unheated interior spaces like basements, attics, and garages. But pipes that run through your cabinets or that are against an exterior wall are also at risk.

How to prevent your pipes from freezing and how to thaw them if they do.

How to prevent pipes from freezing

Take measures to keep your pipes warm and water running when it gets below freezing outside.

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water pipes in the garage.
  • Open cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathrooms to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
  • Let the cold water drip from a faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe—even at a trickle—helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature during the day and night.
  • If you plan to be away, leave the heat set to a temperature no lower than 55° F on in your home.
  • For the long term, add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in those areas.

How to thaw your pipes

If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Most likely, the pipes against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation are the ones that are frozen. If the water is still running, you can take the following steps but if you suspect a more serious problem, call a plumber.

  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
  • If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber in Boston.

If your you need supplemental heat, you can add a space heater to a room where pipes may be at risk. For plumbing repair following frozen pipes, or for more information, contact Greater Boston Plumbing and Heating.

Consumer Reports

Prevent Frozen Pipes and How to Thaw Pipes if They Freeze-Worcester, Boston

08 Jan 2014

Frozen pipes occur most frequently when they are exposed to severe cold, like those in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages or kitchen cabinets.

With the cold arctic air and wind chills that have been hanging around Worcester and Boston we have been experiencing some of the coldest weather in years. With single digit temperatures, frozen water pipes in unheated basements and crawl spaces are a concern for homeowners.

The American Red Cross suggests tips on how to prevent pipes from freezing and what to do if water pipes freeze.

Why Pipe Freezing is a Problem

Water expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on metal or plastic pipes. No matter how strong, 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.

Preventing Frozen Pipes

Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer's or installer's directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed.  
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  • Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a "pipe sleeve" or installing UL-listed "heat tape," "heat cable," or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes.

During Cold Weather:

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
  • Do not pour antifreeze in your pipes to prevent freezing. It is the pipes that bring water to your home that you want to prevent from freezing. Additionally, antifreeze is a poisonous, hazardous substance, you don’t want this in your sewage system or leaking  into your soil.

To Thaw Frozen Pipes

  • If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe.
  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater, or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber in Boston.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

Future Protection

  • Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.
  • Pipes can be relocated by a professional plumber if the home is remodeled.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.

For more information, please contact a licensed plumber like Greater Boston Plumbing and Heating.



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