My Pipes Are Frozen; What Do I Do?

My Pipes Are Frozen; What Do I Do?

Winter is here, and that means cold temperatures are starting to threaten to freeze the pipes in your home. When the temperature outside gets cold enough, the water inside your plumbing lines can freeze, putting an immense amount of strain on your plumbing. When water freezes, it expands, and water expansion can cause a number of serious issues. If the water has nowhere to expand to, it puts pressure on the sides of your pipes, which could cause the pipe to expand, crack, and even start to leak. Leaks from plumbing lines have caused catastrophic damage to many homes, and is likely the last thing you want to deal with this holiday season.

But what happens when it’s too late and you wake up to your plumbing lines having completely frozen solid? You can usually tell this has happened when nothing comes out after turning on the faucet. It’s important to get your plumbing working smoothly again and ensure no potentially devastating leaks or other issues have formed.

Here are a few things you can do if your pipes freeze this winter:

  • Keep a faucet open. As the ice in your plumbing starts to melt, water will start to flow due to the pressure from the municipal supply. Opening your faucet will help this water melt the rest of the ice in your lines, expediting the defrosting process.
  • If you have a crawlspace under your home (where it’s common to find exposed plumbing lines, use a portable space heater to warm the area and melt the ice in the plumbing lines. Be sure to keep an eye on this heater, keep it away from flammable materials, and make sure no leaks have formed that could cause serious damage.
  • Find the frozen area. Keep your eyes open for exposed plumbing lines and see if you can figure out where the freeze has occurred. If you do, use an electric heating pad, electric hair drier, or towels soaked in hot water to melt the ice and get the water flowing smoothly again. If you can’t find the frozen area or if the frozen area is inaccessible, contact a Portland plumber for assistance immediately.
  • Finally, whatever you do, do not use an open flame to try and thaw your plumbing lines. Blowtorches, kerosene or propane heaters, charcoal stoves, or other open-flame devices can not only get too hot for your plumbing lines and risk damaging them, but could even cause a fire to start in your home. Stick with electric heating systems only, and only use them while you can keep a close eye on them to prevent home damage.

How to Avoid Frozen Pipes

Of course, the best way to handle frozen pipes is to prevent them from freezing in the first place. The old saying “The best cure is prevention” definitely applies here, and making a little bit of extra effort to keep your pipes thawed and flowing smoothly can go a long way toward keeping your home in good health. And the best part: it’s not all that difficult to do either.

First, look around your outdoors for exposed water lines, as well as indoors in areas that are not heated or otherwise temperature controlled. Keep a list of where these areas are, and head to your local home improvement warehouse to pick up some pipe insulation. Usually available for just a few dollars per foot and taking only a few minutes to install, this small but effective foam roll dramatically reduces the amount of pipe left exposed to the elements, thus preventing the pipe from freezing and reducing the chances it becomes damaged.

For your exposed faucets or fixtures, such as garden hose connections, freezing can cause broken valves, leaky attachments, and much more. The best way to prevent this is by covering the fixture with an insulated cap or dome. These take just a few minutes to put in place and keep the blistering cold air out, preventing damage.

Finally, if you have any indoor faucets or fixtures in areas that are not climate controlled, turn on the faucet and let it drip slowly during these cold hours. This slow drip helps alleviate pressure should the pipes freeze over by giving the water some area and space it can expand to. While it may not stop the water from freezing, it can prevent the water from freezing and putting pressure on the walls of your plumbing, which means that your plumbing should work just fine again once the pipes defrost.

Got a problem with frozen pipes? Call the experts at Roth Heating & Cooling, Plumbing & Electrical at (503) 994-9924 to schedule an appointment today!

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