Frozen Pipes Protection
The first sign of a frozen pipe is a blockage in water pipes resulting in non-delivery of water to your plumbing fixture. Likely, other fixtures will be operating but if only one of your plumbing fixtures is not working, this is a tell-tale sign that your pipes could be frozen.
As water freezes, it expands. If it is an extreme freeze, there is a good chance that your pipes could be split by the force of ice that is expanding beyond the diameter of copper pipes that are supplying water to your fixture.
So while you are waiting for the ice dam in the frozen pipe to thaw, the damage to pipes may have already been done. Once the weather or interior temperature will warm, the result of the frozen burst pipe will be evident. All of a sudden as the ice dams in pipes melts, the full pressure of the water will displace water behind the walls or beneath the fixture.
Depending on the outside temperature, the velocity and direction of the wind, a wind leak in the building envelope blowing over a plumbing pipe could cause water in the pipe to freeze. So a freeze up of water pipes due to freezing cold temperatures might affect plumbing pipes one day and not the next. Good preventative maintenance against freezing pipes is to close up all holes in the building envelope with a good grade of caulking, including around windows. If freezing air cannot enter, then the risk of freezing is minimized.
If you are in the midst of an unseasonal deep freeze and unsure if your plumbing pipes can withstand a deep freeze, before there will be any water damage from frozen pipes, it is best practice to let hot and cold water drip slowly from the faucet, not letting water sit still in your plumbing pipes. Occasionally flush your toilets to allow water feeding your fixtures to move. The incremental cost of wasted water outweighs the cost of a flooded house due to frozen pipes bursting and then having thawed burst pipes erupt uncontrollably.
Since a thawed frozen pipe could leak and cause thousands of dollars of damage, you should be ready in an emergency what to doin case a water pipe has ruptured. Be ready to shut the main water supply shut-off valve located next to your water meter. If you do not know where the main water shut off is located (usually next to your water meter), find out NOW so you will be ready to shut down the entire water system in case of flooding due to a deep freeze (or any other flooding emergency).
On the other hand, if you are already aware that there is a possibility that a pipe is frozen, draining the water from the line can help reduce the buildup of ice pressure thereby reducing the risk that a frozen pipe will be saved from being ruptured if it is caught early enough. First shut off your water at the water meter. Next open your faucet in the basement to allow the water to drain from your pipes. Then go to the frozen fixture and open the valves to allow air into the system.
Also, heat the house to a higher temperature so that heat from within the house can radiate to the inside of outside walls, hopefully allowing the frozen pipe to thaw. Make sure to open vanity doors so heated air can circulate inside the cabinet. If you have one fixture working and the next is not, there is a chance that the frozen pipe could be in the same room. Heat the room with an electric heater to help thaw the pipe or use an electric hair dryer to heat the pipes to the fixture. Do not attempt to use a propane torch or other live fire device to create heat to thaw a frozen pipe as this could represent a huge fire risk for the homeowner.
After a couple of hours, close the taps at the lower level and slowly turn the water on at the shut off next to the meter. See if water will start flowing to the frozen fixture. If water is flowing, shut the water off at the fixture and listen closely to hear if there is the sound of leaking water within the walls.
If there are no leaking sounds, you’re all right for now. Consider yourself very lucky but a plumber will have to come in and remediate for future frozen pipe freeze-ups.
If there is a “whoosh” of water leaking, immediately shut down your entire house and wait for the GreenCity plumber to arrive. Leaking water sounds from pipes is a sign that the frozen pipe has split and is leaking water uncontrollably. In any event, the situation could happen again and should be looked at to prevent pipe freeze-ups from happening again.
No heat in your house? Experiencing a power failure? What to do next? Shut off the main water valve in the basement. Then open all valves and faucets in all plumbing fixtures. Make sure that the plumbing fixture at the lowest level in the house is open allowing water above the lowest fixture to drain. All water in the plumbing pipes should drain dry preventing a freeze burst pipe under pressure. If pipes running horizontally are not level in the walls, there is a possibility that water in these pipes could freeze, but certainly less damage will done than if all pipes in the house are under pressure and freeze.
During a no heat condition, pressurized water pipes that are allowed to freeze could result in dozens of bursts in pipes resulting in many thousands of dollars of repairs not including damage that water under pressure could cause after the plumbing pipes will thaw. For insurance purposes, usually the cause of the flooding is not covered so the more leaks from previously frozen pipes inside walls, the greater the homeowners’ costs to remediate froze pipes.
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