What to do if your pipes freeze

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by khou.com staff

khou.com

Posted on February 2, 2011 at 11:31 AM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 9 at 8:57 AM

If your pipes froze overnight, you're not alone. Hundreds of Houston area families woke up to the same problem Wednesday morning. There are steps you can take to prevent the pipes from bursting.

1. To relieve any pressure and determine how extensive the problem is, open all faucets. If only one fixture is not working, you can assume that the pipe is frozen somewhere between that fixture and the line that leads to others.

2. Locate where uninsulated water lines pass through an uninsulated space. Examine pipes adjacent to uninsulated foundation walls or in or adjacent to exterior walls, especially within sink and vanity cabinets, where the closed doors partially block room heat.

3. If the frozen pipe is a hot-water line, open a hot-water faucet. The moving water may thaw the pipes. If it is a cold-water line, open a cold-water faucet. If it is both or you’re not sure, open both the hot and cold faucets. Keep opening faucets until the water flows freely or until you’ve opened them all.

4. Warm the pipes slowly wherever you have access to them. Work from an open faucet toward the frozen area. Possible approaches include hair dryers, heat lamps, towels soaked in hot water, electric heat tapes wrapped around pipes, and space heaters. If the frozen pipes extend into walls or floors, heating the pipe adjacent to where it enters and exits the wall will eventually thaw the section within the wall. Also turn up the heat in the room.

5. You will know the pipe is thawed out when water starts to trickle out of the open faucet. Let the water run for a while to completely clear the pipe. Then, close the faucet and check for leaks.

6. Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame. Water damage is preferable to burning down your house. You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe with the warm air from a hair dryer. Start by warming the pipe as close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe. Do not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water because you could be electrocuted.
 

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