How to Avoid Freezing Pipes During Cold Snap

While all of Delaware endures a record-setting deep freeze, local heating and air conditioning companies are working hard to keep up with the demand in service calls. And home owners are taking precautions to prevent the the possibility of water damage from frozen pipes that can burst.

The following advice has been shared with homeowner associations and area residents that may help you get you and the pipes in your home through this tough winter unscathed.

Common Causes of Frozen Pipes
Quick drops in temperatures
Poor insulation
Thermostats set too low

Steps to Prevent Pipes from Freezing

  • Keep your thermostat set at the same temperature during both day and night. You might be in the habit of turning down the heat when you’re asleep, but further drops in the temperature – more common overnight – could catch you off guard and freeze your pipes.
  • Let warm water drip overnight, preferably from a faucet on an outside wall. It is cheaper to waste some water then to fix broken pipes.
  • Open cabinet doors to allow warm air to flow around un-insulated pipes, especially near exterior walls. 

  • Check the insulation of pipes in your home’s crawl spaces and attic. Exposed pipes are most susceptible to freezing.
  • Seal leaks that allow cold air inside near where pipes are located. Look for air leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents, and pipes, and use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out. With severe cold, even a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze.
  • Use an indoor valve to 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.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat set to a temperature no lower than 60°F.

If Your Pipes Freeze

If water is not coming out of one or more faucets, try to isolate freeze point. If all of your faucets are not working, the freeze point may be in the main supply line. Condensation on a pipe is an indicator of freezing. If you cannot locate a freeze point or if it is inaccessible, contact a plumber. Other tips:

  • If you turn on your faucets and nothing comes out, leave affected the faucets open, turn off the water supply, and call a plumber.
  • Find your main water shut-off so you can turn water off quickly.
  • If your house or basement is flooding, turn off the water supply to the house and immediately call 911.

  • You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe with the warm air from a hair dryer. Start by warming the pipe as close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe.

  • Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame because it could cause a fire hazard. Every year, many building fires are caused by people trying to thaw frozen pipes. All open flames in homes present a serious fire danger, as well as a severe risk of exposure to lethal carbon monoxide.


Winterizing Your Property

  • Leave the heat on to between 55°F and 60°F degrees.

  • Turn off the water supply at the main shutoff. Use an air compressor to blow any trapped water from the water pipes. Open all faucets and leave them open. This will help keep condensation from freezing and bursting the water lines.

  • Remove garden hoses from outside faucets and open these faucets to drain them.

  • Drain the water heater. Turn off the pilot light on gas water heaters and be sure to turn off the electricity to electric water heaters before you drain them.

  • Flush all toilets (to empty the tank) and every faucet (to drain water from pipes) in the home, including outdoor faucets.

  • Empty all toilet bowls by siphoning or bailing and sponging. Pour a mixture of food grade antifreeze and water into all toilet bowls and traps of all sinks, showers and bathtubs. Don’t drain these traps. The water in them keeps sewer gases out of your house.

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