When outdoor temperatures begin to fall, the risk of freezing and bursting pipes rises dramatically. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, busted pipes are one of the most common causes of property damage in the winter months. The highest-risk pipes are generally ones in unheated spaces such as basements, attics and garages. However, homeowners should take precautions with all pipes. Here are a few tips for avoiding a hefty repair bill and preventing your pipes from freezing during a cold spell this winter:
- Close garages – If there are pipes in your garage, make sure to keep the door closed to conserve heat.
- Open cabinets – Opening kitchen and bathroom cabinets will allow warmer air to circulate to the pipes.
- Let water drip – Let cold water drip from any faucets that are served by exposed pipes.
- Leave the heat on – If you plan on being out of town, make sure you do not turn the heat down.
- Insulate – As a long-term solution, add insulation to attics, basements, crawl spaces and other areas with housing pipes that are not climate-controlled.
If a pipe manages to freeze and burst despite all your efforts, be cautious when thawing, as water will begin to drip from the broken area. Additionally, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve before thawing broken pipes. Here are a few ways to thaw frozen pipes quickly:
- Turn on the faucet – As cold as it may be, running water through the pipe will help it thaw.
- Apply heat – Using small handheld appliances such as a hairdryer, electric heating pad or portable space heater, apply gentle heat to the frozen pipes. You can also wrap pipes with towels soaked in warm water.
- Call a plumber – If you are unable to identify the frozen area, it is best to call a professional. A licensed plumber will be able to find the frozen area, fix any bursts, and thaw the pipes.
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