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Protecting Against Frozen Pipes

One of the many risks that cold weather presents for homeowners is frozen pipes. When water freezes in a pipe it expands and can exert pressure over 2,000 pounds per square inch. This pressure is enough to rupture most any pipe filled with water which provides no place for the ice to expand. When the pipe bursts it will spill hundreds of gallons of water per hour, and that equates to thousands of dollars of damage to your home. There is no reason your home needs to fall victim to this type of damage, especially when you consider how easy it is to prevent a frozen water pipe. The first step is to be aware of risky locations where pipes are most susceptible to freezing. This includes when pipes are located in an outside wall, under a sink on an outside wall or in an unheated crawlspace.

Here are a few things you can do to prevent the problem of freezing pipes from happening.

• Leave the faucet drip slightly as a trickle. The dripping water will keep the water in the pipe from freezing.
• Open kitchen base cabinets and let room air circulate.
• Open kitchen base cabinets and place a small portable heater near or in it to heat the pipes
• Wrap the problem pipe with electrical heat tape.
• Insulate the problem pipes with foam insulation wrap, especially those that run through unheated spaces.
• Temper the currently unheated crawlspace by placing a heater in the crawlspace. You just need to elevate the crawlspace temperature to modestly above freezing, about 40°F.

In addition to the steps outlined above, there is one more precaution that is guaranteed to save you major grief. Be sure to remove any garden hoses you have attached to your outside faucets . Once you have removed the hose, then go in the house and turn off the water to the outside faucet (also called a sill cock or hose bibb). It is critical to remove any hoses attached to the outside faucet! An attached garden hose is sure recipe for frozen pipe damage this winter.

The sill cock only turns water on and off outside, there is a water shut off valve inside the house for the outside faucet. You may have to do some investigating in your home following water supply lines to try and find the shut off valve. The valve is usually located near the outside faucet. By removing any hoses and turning off the water supply to the sill cock you have averted the major risk of water damage done by a bursting frozen pipe.

If your pipe is frozen but not yet ruptured, you need to promptly thaw it out. There are a few thawing techniques you can use depending on where the frozen pipe is located. (NOTE: Never use a flame torch because of the fire hazard it creates. Open flame torches are the most common cause of pipe thawing related home fires)
When pipes are frozen you’ll find that when you turn the faucet on no water will come out or it will flow out in a trickle. As soon as you realize a pipe is frozen you need to take immediate action.

• If the pipe burst (even if still frozen without leaking) then immediately shut off the water to the faucet locally or at the water main.
• Open the faucet that is supplied by the frozen pipe even if you do not yet know where it is frozen.
• Identify the frozen water supply pipe and find the location of the blockage.
• Follow the pipe back from the faucet to where it runs through cold areas such as an exterior wall, unheated crawl space or in some cases an unheated basement if the pipe is near an outside wall.
• Often the frozen area of the pipe will be frosted or have ice on it. If the situation is getting critical the pipe may be slightly bulged or look slightly fissured.

These steps can help you avoid becoming a victim of frozen pipes during the winter months and save you thousands of dollars in damage. Be aware of the temperatures inside and outside of the home. It can be a major concern if the proper precautions are not taken.

Our trained service professionals are ready to help your family through this winter. Call Spencer Air Conditioning and Heating today at (972) 446- COOL (2665) or find out more about us at