Avoiding frozen pipes in extremely cold weather

Posted at 12:27 PM, Dec 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-27 12:27:36-05

Western New York is experiencing some seriously cold temperatures this week, and that could lead to frozen pipes.

Water expands when it freezes, so frozen pipes could lead to cracked or broken pipes.

According to the American Red Cross, the pipes that are most likely to freeze are pipes that are exposed to the severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, water sprinkler lines, or swimming pool supply lines; pipes that are located in unheated interior areas like the basement, garage or crawl space; and pipes that are inside exterior walls with little or no insulation.

Here are some tips from the American Red Cross to help keep the pipes in your home from freezing:

  • 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.

Here are some tips for thawing your pipes if they do freeze:

  • If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
  • 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. 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.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.