During the colder months of winter, frozen pipes can be a real concern. It’s not only about the pipes freezing and you not having water. The bigger issue is when the pipes burst, causing all levels of havoc and damage to your home. Just like everything else in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Having a flooded first or second floor in the middle of the night in your home can most times be prevented with some easy strategies. Living in or near Anchorage, AK, you know first hand about those lower temperatures in the winter.
Preventing Frozen Pipes
Take the time to implement these straightforward steps to help avoid frozen pipes:
- Insulate those pipes. Any pipes on exterior walls or in unheated areas (such as crawl spaces, garages, basements, attics) especially need attention. Piping insulation favorites are rubber, fiberglass, and foam. If this isn’t something you’d prefer to do yourself, call one of our knowledgeable plumbers at Alkota Plumbing and Heating to come out and either advise you or insulate the pipes for you.
- Prior to the thermometer dropping into those cold temperatures, turn off the inside water shut-off valve that provides water to your outside spigots, or hose bibbs. Drain each line (open the spigot until it stops dripping), and the turn off the spigot. Some people purchase and use a foam dome cover to insulate the outdoor spigot, further protecting it from freezing.
- During those subfreezing temperatures:
–– Turn all your faucets (including showers and tubs) on to a trickle of room-temperature water especially throughout the nights. If the day’s temperature is continually subfreezing, keep the water on throughout these times. Keeping water moving in the pipes will help prevent icing.
–– Keep your house temperature to at least 55ºF both day and night. Never go lower, but do go higher. The higher the better if your home isn’t well insulated.
–– Keep your garage and outside doors closed. Locate any drafts you might have inside and do what you can to block them.
–– Open all doors inside to allow better heat flow throughout all the rooms. It can help to keep walled-in pipes warmer.
–– Open your under-sink kitchen and bathroom cabinets to allow warm air flow to reach the plumbing.
–– Use a space heater (under your vigilant supervision) in your bathroom(s), keeping the door closed, where pipes are located on an outside wall or if you’ve previously had frozen pipes at that spot. Keeping the heat enclosed in the bathroom, with the cabinet doors open and faucets trickling, will go a long way in preventing those pipes from freezing.
How to Thaw Those Frozen Pipes
If you find yourself with frozen pipes, don’t panic. If no water comes out of a faucet, or if it comes out slowly, your pipe may be frozen. Check all your faucets to determine if the freeze is concentrated at this one faucet or if it’s throughout your home. If it is widespread, open all the faucets, turn off the main water to the house, and call your plumber. The plumbers at Alkota Plumbing and Heating know exactly how to respond and will come out to help you. If only one pipe is frozen, you may be able to thaw the pipes yourself by:
- Keeping the faucet open, but locating your nearest water shut-off in the event you’ll need it. (At this point, don’t turn the water off unless the pipe has actually burst.) Once the frozen area starts to melt, the water will flow and help melt the remaining ice in the pipe.
- Following the recommendation from above regarding using a space heater in the room (again, under your watch) with the cabinet door(s) open and room door closed. Give it some time to see if this helps.
- Trying to thaw the pipe with a blow dryer. (NEVER use any open-flame device, such as a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, or charcoal stove.) Work the dryer up and down the pipe once you locate where the pipe has frozen. Beginning at the faucet and working backward till you reach the frozen area, work up and down the pipe. Keep doing this until full water pressure returns to the faucet. Then keep the water flow at a trickle until the outdoor temperatures rise again. (When using the blow dryer, be sure the cord doesn’t come in contact with any area where the water might start to flow or through a crack in a burst pipe.)
- Unplugging the blow dryer and turning off the earlier-located water shut-off valve immediately if water starts to gush out of the pipe while you’re warming it. Keep the faucet open. If this occurs or if you can’t locate or reach a frozen pipe to warm it, call your plumber immediately. The plumbers at Alkota Plumbing and Heating have the knowledge, experience, and thawing tools to help you with your frozen pipe(s). Don’t hesitate to call them at any point during this process.
As challenging and frustrating frozen pipes can be, if you take the proper steps in trying to prevent the situation or in thawing them, you can get through it without panicking. And if you implement the prevention process on a regular basis during those colder temperatures in Anchorage, AK, you may succeed in protecting your pipes from the big chill.