Steps to Take If You Have a Frozen Water Line
As the temperatures start to drop, homeowners everywhere need to pay close attention to their plumbing systems. In chilly weather, it’s possible for pipes to freeze and even burst. In addition to affecting your water supply, frozen water pipes can also cause major water damage all over your home. If you want to avoid these issues, it is important to know what to do if your pipe freezes.
Figure Out Which Pipe Is Frozen
Any time you have plumbing issues and it’s particularly cold, your pipes might be frozen. Usually, pipes don’t freeze up the second it drops to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, your pipes will be in danger if outdoor temperatures are 20 degrees or less. If temperatures drop below 20 degrees for more than a few hours, any uninsulated pipes can freeze up.
How do you know if your pipe is frozen? Frozen pipes happen gradually, so it can be helpful to recognize the problem before you end up with water pouring all over your house. The very first warning sign is reduced water flow. As the ice starts forming inside the pipe, you’ll find that your water pressure suddenly drops. You may also hear some groaning or banging noises as the freezing causes water to move oddly inside of pipes.
If you notice any of these signs, try to take a look at pipes in vulnerable spots. Frozen pipes are usually under the sink, outside the house, in the basement, or in the attic. A visual inspection of your pipes can help you confirm where the freezing is happening. In the earlier stages, frozen pipes might have condensation beading up on the outside. As the freeze sets in, your pipes will have frost form on the outside. If the pipe breaks, you may even notice tiny icicles dangling off of the pipe.
Take Steps to Prevent Further Damage
As soon as you realize your pipes are freezing, you need to take steps to prevent damage to your home and your plumbing system. The first thing to do is turn off your main water supply valve. This will shut off the water running to your pipes, so pressure can’t build up and leaks can’t flood the whole home. Identifying your shutoff valve ahead of time is always a smart move. It is usually somewhere along the perimeter of your home. It typically looks like a large pipe with either a round handle or a lever. Turn a round handle clockwise, or move the straight handle perpendicular to the pipe to turn off your water.
Next, go ahead and open the faucets connected to your frozen pipes. This is important because it relieves pressure. The liquid water will drip out of your pipes so the frozen section isn’t putting so much strain on the pipes. If you can’t figure out which faucets are connected to the frozen area, you can turn them all on slightly. Open them just enough to let a small drip out so you relieve pressure without wasting water elsewhere.
When your pipes are frozen, it might seem like an obvious time to whip out a blowtorch. However, this is not recommended. Applying extreme heat to your pipes can damage them further, so you can end up with broken pipes even if the ice didn’t burst them. Using open flames can also be dangerous because you risk lighting parts of your home on fire. It’s also important to be cautious about using anything like a hair dryer or heating pad to warm up frozen pipes. If there is any water leaking, you risk electrocution. In most cases, it’s smarter to talk to your plumber and to let the pipes thaw naturally.
Once your pipes freeze, you need to be patient. It takes about 30 minutes to an hour to unfreeze a pipe with safe, gentle methods. During this thawing time, check on your pipes regularly. Most leaks won’t be obvious until water is flowing again.
Decide Whether You Need to Call a Professional
It’s certainly possible for a frozen pipe to be a minor inconvenience that goes away on its own. However, in many cases, frozen water pipes turn into a major problem that requires professional assistance. Being able to spot the signs where you need plumbing help will reduce your risk of massive flooding damage.
Usually, the main reason to call for help is if there are leaks. As water freezes in a pipe, it puts a lot of pressure on the pipes. This can cause cracks to develop in the pipes, or it can cause joints to move out of alignment. The most obvious sign of a leak will be water spraying everywhere. However, if the leak is slow and it is very cold, the water can freeze. Instead of damp puddles everywhere, you might only see the leak when you look at the pipe. You can also check for leaks by visually inspecting your pipes. If you notice any hairline cracks or gaps around fittings, call a plumber to check your pipes as soon as possible.
You’ll also need to get professional help if you cannot locate the source of the frozen pipe. Most frozen pipes happen in the attic, basement, crawl space, or other accessible places. However, if you suspect the frozen pipe is in a wall, you’ll need more assistance. In these cases, your plumber will need to locate the source of the frozen pipe and potentially open up a wall to fix the problem.
Prevent Further Freezes
Once any part of your water pipes freezes, you are vulnerable to further freezes. A frozen pipe indicates that somewhere, your plumbing system is routinely getting too cold. Therefore, it’s a good idea to take a close look at your plumbing and figure out ways to prevent further freezes.
Doing things like setting your central heat to at least 55 degrees and leaving faucets open slightly can help to reduce freezing risks. However, the only way to completely prevent freezing is to add insulation. Proper insulation ensures that your water will keep flowing smoothly no matter how chilly it is outside. You have many options for insulation, including insulating the space around the pipes or insulating the pipes themselves. Since insulation also lowers water heating bills, it’s certainly worthwhile to talk to your plumber about getting better insulation.
Another option for preventing freezes from happening again is pipe rerouting. Rerouting your plumbing system moves your pipes so they can run through warmer parts of the home. This is ideal for people who have an exterior pipe that just keeps freezing over and over.
During the winter, the team at Bardi Heating, Cooling & Plumbing deals with a lot of plumbing emergencies. We have the experience needed to quickly identify problems and recommend affordable repairs. In addition to fixing winter plumbing problems, we also offer a variety of other repairs, maintenance, and installation services. Our team is comfortable working on a variety of HVAC and plumbing systems, and we provide assistance throughout the Norcross area. Give us a call today to schedule your appointment.