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Tips for Avoiding Frozen Pipes

frozen pipes

When preparing your home for winter, several areas need attention. After preparing the outside of your home and making arrangements for safely heating your home, the next area to focus on is your pipes.

Frozen pipes can lead to pipes bursting, which can cause water damage making the cost of repair vary greatly. The best way to save money and minimize the damage is to follow a few of these steps to avoid the problem altogether.

Pipes exposed to the elements or in an uninsulated part of your home are at the highest risk of freezing. The Building Research Council at the University of Illinois reported the "temperature alert threshold" is 20° F for uninsulated pipes in an uninsulated space.

To prevent your pipes from freezing, follow these steps:

Disconnect any water hoses from outside, drain them, and store for the winter season.

Let cold water drip from faucets that have exposed pipes when it's cold outside. This running water helps prevent pipes from freezing, even if it's just a trickle.

Close the interior shut-off valve for that faucet, open and drain the pipes, and install a faucet insulator, which is available at most home improvement stores. In a pinch, you can wrap the pipe with a towel or rag, cover it with a quart-sized baggie, then duct tape the entire setup so that it's secure to the outside of your home and water won't get to the cloth.

Keep your garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage, but open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow the heat to circulate around those pipes.

Turn your thermostat to at least 68 degrees, and if you are traveling during cold weather, leave the heat on. Keeping the temperature set to at least 55° F may cost a little more than turning it off completely, but it will be less expensive than repairing pipes and water damage.

Thawing Frozen Pipes

You can suspect a frozen pipe if you only get a trickle of water when turning it on. If a pipe freezes, you can usually thaw it pretty quickly by soaking towels in hot water and wrapping them around the pipes. You can also use a hairdryer, but never do this is there is standing water nearby, as it can cause electric shock or death.

Make sure you leave the faucet turned on when you start warming it so that the water can flow out. And start thawing closest to the faucet and work your way out.

In the unfortunate situation where a pipe bursts, the first step is to shut off the water to your home. Quick reactions here are essential! Call a plumber and work to remove as much water as possible, to reduce the mold and water damage to your home.