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Common plumbing problems

How to Deal with Frozen Pipes in Winter

Frozen pipes are one of the last things you’d want after the deluge of snow and wind we’ve had in Connecticut these past few weeks. If your pipes are already frozen, read on below about how you can thaw them out.

Otherwise, you may be thinking about what you can do to help prevent a pipe from freezing. Many homeowners are not aware that there are multiple steps they can take to help prevent frozen pipes in the first place. Some things you can do in the middle of winter, others will take more time and planning. They should be done before the winter sets in.

Before the winter

  • Apply electrical heating tape to your pipes.
  • Insulate your attics, basements, and crawl spaces. Older insulation may need replacing/upgrading.
  • Check the home for areas where water supply pipes are located. Consider both your hot and cold water pipes.
  • Consider re-designing the layout of your piping to reduce exposure to freezing temperatures. Speak to a plumbing remodelling company about this.
  • Have a plumbing company install pipe insulation.
  • Seal cracks and crawl spaces in your home that could let cold air in.


During the winter

  • Let faucets drip – this carries more internal energy which can produce more heat than water that is still.
  • Open doors inside to keep the whole home at a consistent temperature.
  • Open cabinets in your kitchen and bathroom to let warm air circulate around the plumbing.
  • Set the temperature to at least 55F when you’re not at home.
  • Keep your thermostat consistent throughout the day.


What causes pipes to freeze?

Pipes that freeze can be particularly problematic and not just because they stop the flow of water. Frozen pipes can cause ruptures, serious leaks and floods. As water freezes, it expands, sometimes to the point of cracking the pipes.

When areas of your piping get a build-up of ice pressure is forced along the pipes, somewhere between the initial blockage and the faucet; it’s here that the pipe tends to burst.


Wind chill makes matters worse.

Wind chill can exacerbate any chance of freezing, especially if there are cracks, and openings that allow the cold air to blow in. This wind chill can speed up any ice formation, even in a small opening.


Unheated interior spaces are at most risk.

According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, 37 percent of all frozen pipe failures happen in the basement.


When to be alert for freezing pipes

You’re not going to be thinking about your pipes all winter. It’s likely that you won’t think about them at all until there’s a problem. But little precautions can help to prevent an even bigger problem.

Generally speaking, the “alert threshold” temperature for freezing pipes is:

20° F / – 6° C

But pipes can still freeze above this temperature, in the right conditions. Even a heated space that is exposed to cracks or openings can let in cold air that can lead to ice blockages.

As a homeowner you should be aware of any pipes that might be exposed to this “alert threshold”. If you are unsure, speak to a local plumbing company that specializes in pipework.


What to do if your pipes freeze

First, how do you even know you’ve got a frozen pipe? Look out for these signs:

  • No running water – Probably the most obvious and unmistakable sign.
  • Frosted pipes – Check if any frost has formed on the surface of exposed parts of your pipes. This is a good indication that your pipe is frozen.
  • Strange smells – A smell that comes from your drain/faucet can be a sign of a frozen pipe. This is because frozen pipes leave nowhere for smells to go but back into your home.


Do you think you have got a frozen pipe problem? Let’s thaw it out.

Assuming your pipes haven’t yet burst, you can start taking steps to thaw them out. If there’s a rupture, you’re going to need to call out an emergency plumbing company.

  • Turn on the faucet. Keep the water flowing, this will help to melt the ice and prevent further freezing.
  • Apply heat to the frozen part of the pipe – You can use an electric heating pad, hair dryer or portable heater. Keep doing this until all the faucets in your home have full water pressure.

Can’t locate the frozen section of the pipe? Call a local plumber such as Onze Southern Connecticut Plumbing and Heating to help.

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