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December 18, 2023
Frozen pipes are one of the most common plumbing problems and can quickly turn into a disaster for your Lawton or Fort Sill home. Learning how to prevent frozen pipes (and thaw them in a pinch) can help you avoid costly and inconvenient damage to your home.
Before you get caught in a plumbing emergency, check out our guide to preventing and thawing frozen pipes.
What Causes Frozen Pipes?
Pipes freeze when the water inside them gets so cold it turns to ice. Water expands when it freezes, which puts pressure on your pipes and can lead to anything from a small crack to a burst pipe.
Outdoor pipes like hose bibs, sprinkler lines, and swimming pool supply lines are the most susceptible to freezing, but indoor pipes can freeze too. Plumbing pipes are also highly susceptible to freezing during the winter if they are located in unheated areas of your home like your basement, attic, exterior wall cavities, or kitchen cabinets. And while any frozen pipe can cause a headache, frozen and burst indoor pipes will cause the most damage.
How to Keep Pipes from Freezing
There are a few things you can do to prevent frozen pipes.
Check the Weather
If you know there’s a big freeze coming up, keep your thermostat set a few degrees warmer. While your heating bill will be slightly higher, you’ll help avoid costly repairs if your pipes freeze or burst. You can also open any cabinet doors that back up to an exterior wall to allow warm air to circulate around your plumbing.
Get to Know Your Plumbing System
Most of us don’t know a whole lot about our home’s plumbing and water systems, but this can be disastrous in an emergency. Learning where pipes and water shut-off valves are located in your home can help you take quick action when a pipe freezes. It’s also important to pay attention to how your pipes usually behave so you can recognize the signs of a frozen pipe, like a slow trickle when you turn on a faucet that usually has good water pressure.
Drain Outdoor Pipes Before Winter
Draining your outdoor pipes should be at the top of your fall plumbing maintenance checklist. Make sure you drain all outside pipes including swimming pool lines and sprinkler systems, drain and remove hoses, and shut off the supply valves to outdoor hose bibs. Wrapping your outdoor pipes to prevent freezing is also a good idea.
Insulate Your House & Your Pipes
Good insulation is your best defense against frozen pipes. Your attic, exterior walls, or crawl space should all be well-insulated to trap heat and prevent these areas from getting cold enough for pipes to freeze.
Pipe insulation is also an option. Insulating your indoor pipes will not only prevent them from freezing, but can also reduce heat loss which will make your hot water more reliable and potentially reduce your energy bills.
How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
If your pipes have already frozen, thawing them as quickly as possible will help reduce the risk and extent of damage. Follow these steps to thaw frozen pipes:
- Shut off your home’s main water supply.
- Open all faucets in your house to drain any remaining water.
- Apply heat to frozen sections of the pipe. You can use a hair dryer, heating pad, or space heater to do this, but never use an open flame.
- Check all accessible pipes. If one pipe is frozen, others likely are too.
- Call an emergency plumber!
Frozen and burst pipes are an emergency because they can cause extensive water damage to your home and result in thousands of dollars in repairs. The best way to protect your family’s health, safety, and comfort is to call for professional plumbing help as soon as possible.
A final note on the changing seasons! As Spring is right around the corner, and we’ll soon be watering our lawns and flowers soon, be aware of your outside faucets. A burst pipe could have gone unnoticed since it hasn’t been used all winter and the ensuing flood will be extremely inconvenient for your family and could even become a safety hazard.