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Frozen and Burst Pipe Prevention


Preventing your pipes from freezing and bursting

December, January, and February are the most common months pipes freeze throughout the country. Especially if outdoor temperatures are below freezing, there’s a quick drop in temperature, your home has poor insulation, or your thermostat is set too low.

This year is no exception, especially for the East Coast, who has been experiencing severe cold temperatures for the past 10 days. By the end of this week, the winter storm named Bomb Cyclone will, in many ways, resemble a hurricane and cause damage up and down the coast.

How to prevent frozen pipes:

  • Keep the heat running, even if you leave for a period of time. Keeping it set above 50 degrees Fahrenheit should provide enough heat to keep the pipes warm.
  • Locate pipes at risk of freezing and add insulation to them. High-risk zones include the garage, crawl space, attic, unfinished basement and other unheated or poorly insulated areas indoors. Your local hardware store should have pipe insulation, or pipe sleeves, as well as outdoor spigot covers and other insulating products. The higher the insulation's R-value, the better.
  • Outdoor plumbing should also be protected, if possible. Disconnect garden hoses and drain your sprinkler system. You don't want water trapped in there, waiting to freeze and expand.
  • Seal cracks and other holes in your exterior walls, including those around any light fixtures, outdoor electrical outlets and, any phone or cable lines coming into your house. Drafts from these openings can not only chill the pipes in your walls but also waste your heating budget!
  • Open the cabinet doors below kitchen and bathroom sinks if you're worried heated air isn't reaching the pipes inside.
  • Turn your faucets on just enough to slowly drip. Most pipes burst between an ice blockage and the faucet, not between the blockage and the source of your water supply. Opening up the faucet reduces the pressure in the pipe, hopefully enough to avoid a rupture.

What to do when your pipes freeze

If you turn on a faucet and get only a trickle of water flow, you probably have a frozen pipe! Time to take action before the situation becomes costly.

Find your frozen pipes

To find the location of the freezing pipe, turn off the main water supply and turn on all the faucets in the house. See which ones are not working. If no faucets work, the frozen pipe is likely somewhere close to where the main service line enters the house. If all the faucets in an area of the house don't work, it’s likely between the split from the main line. If you are unable to locate the frozen area or the frozen area is not accessible, call a licensed plumber.

How to keep a frozen pipe from bursting

Make sure to thaw the pipe as soon as you can to prevent it from bursting and causing extensive damage to your property. Open the affected faucet all the way and when the water begins flowing, close all the other faucets to a trickle.

There are a few ways to thaw freezing or frozen pipes, but the safest is probably just wrapping the troubled area in thermostatically controlled heat tape. Do not close the affected faucet until you’ve completely thawed the pipe and water flows freely. If you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.

If your pipes do end up bursting, ARS®/Rescue Rooter® offers 24-hour emergency plumbing services. Call 1-800-277-9400 for more information on freezing pipe prevention or to schedule an appointment.

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