Preventing Frozen Pipes

Cold weather can have a damaging effect on water pipes. While frozen water pipes aren’t life threatening, frozen or broken water pipes do cause damage to homes each winter. Even if you have not experienced frozen pipes in the past, sudden cold snaps can cause pipes to freeze up or burst. The following guidelines will help you identify systems that are potentially at risk, how to protect them, and how to thaw them safely should they freeze.

Before Cold Weather

  • Locate and insulate pipes most susceptible to freezing--typically those near exterior walls, in crawl spaces, basements, attics, and garages. Insulation made especially for this purpose is available.
  • Wrap pipes susceptible to freezing with heat tape (UL Approved).
  • Seal any leaks that allow cold air inside where pipes are located.
  • Disconnect garden hoses and shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house.

When It’s Cold

  • Let hot and cold water trickle from a faucet on an outside wall.
  • Open cabinet doors to allow more heat to get to un-insulated pipes under a sink or appliance near an outer wall.
  • Make sure heat is left on and set no lower than 55 degrees.
  • If you plan to be away: (1) Have someone check your house daily to make sure the heat is still on to prevent freezing, or (2) Drain and shut off the water system and shut off water heater (except indoor fire sprinkler systems).

If Pipes Freeze

  • Make sure you and your family know how to shut off the water in case pipes burst. Stopping the flow of water can minimize the damage to your home. Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent.
  • Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch. Use an electric heat gun, hair dryer, heating pad, or space heater and keep combustibles away from the heater. All electrical devices should be kept out of contact with water (puddles or water spraying from leaks).
  • As the pipe begins to thaw, check for leaks. It is not uncommon for the ice plug to seal the leak. Leave a fixture (sink, hose bib, etc) on as you thaw the pipe. The flowing water will help thaw the ice plug faster.
  • Always be careful of the potential for electric shock in and around standing water.

If your home or business has fire sprinklers, these tips can protect those pipes as well, ensuring the sprinklers are able to work if a fire occurs. Read a brief overview of fire sprinkler pipe safety.

If you have any questions, please contact the Fire Prevention Bureau at 847-599-6650.