How to Prevent Frozen Water Pipes

January 2, 2015

Frozen Water Pipes in Arizona

Photo Courtesy of the City of Sierra Vista

 

People who have never visited Southern Arizona tend to believe it is warm and sunny 365 days a year. Residents of Sierra Vista, however, know that we experience our fair share of adverse weather, including a hard-hitting monsoon season and a pretty chilly winter. Winter in Sierra Vista can be especially rough as hard freezes and unexpected, sudden drops in temperature are not at all uncommon.

 

These rapid temperature fluctuations cause a great deal of plumbing problems in both residential and commercial properties throughout Cochise County. People often don’t think to take preventative measures from the cold weather since we do, after all, live in the desert. Homes are frequently built with plumbing pipes located in vulnerable places, like exterior walls or unheated crawlspaces. This makes it especially important to take preventative steps early in the winter season, before the temperature drops below or around 20°F, according to plumbing experts.

 

Damages Caused by Frozen Plumbing Pipes

 

As water freezes, it expands. This causes both metal and plastic pipes to burst if they become overwhelmed, exerting about 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. A burst pipe can cost a homeowner or business owner thousands of dollars in repair, as well as wasted water as hundreds of gallons leak out per hour. Burst water pipes can also lead to mold or microbial growth, which adds even more to the repair cost. Fortunately, preventing frozen water pipes is a lot easier than you may think.

 

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

 

  • Drain swimming pool and outdoor sprinkler water supply lines.

  • Insulate exposed pipes and any pipes located in unheated areas, including beneath cabinets, with rubber insulation, heat tape, pipe sleeves, or even newspaper! Pipe insulation can be bought at Home Depot or any other hardware store. Both hot and cold water pipes should be insulated.

  • Keep outdoor hose valves open so leftover water has room to freeze and expand.

  • Keep faucets on at a trickle if the weather is considerably cold and the faucet connects to an exposed pipe or other pipe at risk of freezing.

  • Open bathroom or kitchen cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate and warm the pipes.

  • If leaving your home for an extended period of time during winter, maintain a temperature of at least 55°F inside.

 

What to do when Pipes Freeze or Burst

 

If you turn on a faucet and no water comes out, or it only trickles, you likely have a frozen pipe. Immediately thaw the pipe to prevent bursting. After locating the frozen pipe, thawing it is usually easy. A few of the simplest ways include:

 

  • While leaving the faucet open, wrap the frozen pipe in towels soaked in hot water until water begins to flow from the faucet with full pressure.

  • Carefully heat the pipe with a heating pad, hairdryer, or small space heater. Be extra careful not to let any of these electrical items come in contact with water in order to prevent electrocution. Leave the faucet open while doing this to allow ice, water, and pressure out.

  • NEVER use flame torches, propane heaters, or any other open flame device.

 

If you notice a pipe has burst, immediately shut off the water supply to your home. Call a licensed plumber and explain your plumbing emergency. The plumber will be able to repair or replace the pipe, as well as help prevent future frozen pipe related problems.

 

Mr. Fix It of Sierra Vista is a licensed and certified plumber. Call for a free estimate, or for advice on how to prevent frozen pipes or what to do when a pipe bursts. Call (520) 227-8194. 

 

Sources:

http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/winter-storm/preventing-thawing-frozen-pipes

http://homerepair.about.com/od/plumbingrepair/ss/thaw_frzn_pipe_5.htm#step-heading

 

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