Winter Pipe Maintenance

pipes-fb-shutterstock_201464816       When the temperature takes a nose dive, water in your pipes can freeze, causing them to burst. Water floods your home and ruins your furnishings, and you have to pay to have it all repaired and replaced. It’s costly and inconvenient. But it doesn’t have to happen if you follow these simple precautions.

WRAP UP FOR WINTER insulate-pipe-shutterstock_62010250 Wrap exposed pipes with insulating material.  Pipes under kitchen sinks, in crawl spaces, near windows or in unheated basements are areas susceptible to freezing.

FIND YOUR SHUT-OFF VALVE Find Your Shut-off Valve Locate your inside water shut-off valve now!  The shut-off valve controls all of the water into your home.  If a pipe bursts, knowing the location of your shut-off valve and how to turn it off, can save valuable time and prevent water damage. The shut-off valve may be located in the basement, under the kitchen sink, in a utility closet, near the hot water heater, or even under the house in a crawl space.  If you cannot locate or do not have a shut-off valve, call your plumber.   Try turning off your shut-off valve. Then turn on each of the faucets in your house, if no water comes out you found the main shut-off valve.  Once you locate the main shut-off valve mark it so everyone in your family can find it should an emergency occur.

MAKE SURE YOU HAVE IT COVERED Make Sure You Have it Covered If your house has a crawl space, cover the outside vents to prevent winter winds from entering and freezing pipes.  Keep the garage door closed if you have a slab foundation.

Problems with Frozen Pipes in the Past? Keep the water running, especially if you’ve had problems with frozen pipes in the past. Try running a small steady stream of water from a cold water faucet in extremely cold weather. The cost of the water is small compared to dealing with the cost and inconvenience of frozen or burst pipes. Make sure you run the water from a faucet children don’t use, because they may inadvertently shut off the faucet after using it.

What if the Pipes Freeze? Thawing Frozen Pipes

  1. If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Locate the suspected frozen area of the water pipe. Likely places include pipes running against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
  2. Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt more ice in the pipe.
  3. Apply heat to the section of pipe using towels soaked in hot water wrapped around the pipe, an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, or an electric hair dryer. Do not use electrical devices if there is standing water.  Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device. A blowtorch can make water in a frozen pipe boil and cause the pipe to explode. All open flames in homes present a serious fire danger, as well as a severe risk of exposure to lethal carbon monoxide.
  4. Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber
  5. Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

What if the Pipes Burst?

  • If a water pipe breaks, immediately close the main shut-off valve to stop flooding.
  • Call a plumber to repair or replace the damaged section of pipe as soon as possible

  The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Winter Pipe Maintenance.” For more information, please visit www.louisvilleky.gov. Blog post courtesy of the Merchants Insurance Group (http://merchantson-demand.com)