How to protect your home from frozen pipes

Cold, winter nights are now becoming even colder. When water freezes to ice it expands, and when it expands within your pipes, pipes burst. Just a 1/8-inch crack in a pipe can spew up to 250 gallons of water a day, causing flooding, serious structural damage, and the immediate potential for mold.

And you could be away at your second home for the winter season. Or you might be traveling for work for the week – or for a Presidents’ weekend getaway. Or even just going about your day-to-day business, unaware of un-insulated pipes in your home. One small crack could spew more than 10 gallons of water every hour that you’re unaware of a freezing pipe or water leak.

Don’t let frozen pipes happen in your home
Here are some simple ways to help prevent pipes from freezing in the winter:

  • If there are water supply lines in the garage, be sure your garage door(s) is closed.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather for any period of time longer than 24 hours, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
  • Place an insulating dome or other covering on all outdoor faucets and spigots to reduce the likelihood of these pipes freezing, expanding and causing a costly leak.
  • Allow a slow drip from your faucets if you will be away from your home for more than 48 hours to reduce the buildup of pressure in the pipes. Even if the pipes freeze, the release pressure in the water system will reduce the likelihood of a rupture.
  • Install a leak detection and automatic shut-off system , like leakSMARTTM, in your home. A system like leakSMARTTM will not only shut off the water should a leak be detected, but also alert the homeowner if leak detection sensors sense near freezing temperatures.

What if your pipes are already frozen?
If your pipes have already reached freezing point, please follow these simple steps to prevent catastrophic damage:

  1. Keep your faucets open. As the frozen area starts to melt, water will flow and running water will help melt ice in the pipe.
  2. Apply heat to frozen areas using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer or towels soaked in hot water.
  3. Use a portable space heater, kept away from flammable materials, to warm under the house – but never leave a heater unattended.
  4. Apply heat until full water pressure is restored.
  5. If you cannot find the frozen area, if the area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber as soon as you can.