When temperatures are below freezing for an extended period of time pipes can burst. Frozen water pipe damage is the reality for thousands of people each year. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety says a burst pipe can cause more than $5,000 in water damage. That’s because the damage can be extensive. “We see about 2,200 claims per day during an average January winter,” says Chris Zimmer, senior vice president of Claims Field Operations for Erie Insurance. “Many of them are due to frozen water pipes.”
SYMPTOMS OF FROZEN PIPES
How do you know if your pipes are frozen?
- If water doesn't come out of the faucet when you turn it on you may have frozen pipes. Then, check to see that the water is still turned on and that you don’t have a leak. If you can confirm these two things, further inspect to make sure your pipes has not burst.
If your pipes are frozen but none have burst, you have two choices:
- Call a plumber to help thaw your frozen pipes. This is a good idea if you don’t think you can safely thaw the pipes yourself, you don’t know where the frozen pipes are or you can’t access the frozen area.
- You can attempt to thaw the frozen pipes yourself but this option can be dangerous if done incorrectly.
HOW TO FIX FROZEN PIPES
If you attempt to thaw the frozen pipes yourself, keep the following tips in mind:
- Keep the faucet open. During the thawing process, water and steam will be created and the pipes will need to be open for discharging this. Keeping the faucet open also allows for moving water to run through the pipe, which will expedite the thawing process.
- Apply heat to the frozen section of the pipe. You can try wrapping an electronic heating pad and/or using a hair dryer. A third option is to try using towels soaked in hot water.
- Use a blowtorch
- Propane or kerosene heaters
- A charcoal stove or any other open flame device to thaw your frozen pipes.
- You should also avoid using a space heater unless you are sure the area is clear of any flammable material.
Once you have successfully thawed the pipe check the other pipes in your home. Be quick to take action with frozen pipes near an exterior wall. You can cut a hole in the inside of the wall to allow warmer air to help thaw the pipe.
Take swift action if the frozen pipes are located inside an exterior wall. Cut a hole in the wall toward the inside of the house to expose those pipes to warmer air.
HOW TO PREVENT FROZEN PIPES
Prevent pipes from freezing and causing major damage, follow these steps:
- Drain water from pipes for your swimming pool and sprinkler water supply lines.
- Disconnect outside hoses to your home, drain the hoses and store them in the garage. Close the indoor valves that supply water to outdoor access points.
- You can insulate the surround areas around vents and light fixtures.
- Check and seal wall cracks and areas around service utility lines.
- Keep cabinets open to allow warm air to the pipes.
- Try your faucets on and allow water to drip on extremely cold days. The water movement will help prevent water to freeze.
- Do not let the temperature inside fall below 55 degrees Fahrenheit when you leave your home.
- Ensure you have proper seals on all doors and windows.
- Use a 60-watt bulb near areas where you have concerns about pipes freezing. (Do not place the bulb near combustible materials)
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This information was originally published in 2018. It was updated with new information on Jan. 24, 2019 through Erie Insurance.