We at Majestic Plumbing & Electric truly hope that you can avoid the messy and often expensive problem of frozen pipes. In a general sense, the winters here in Georgia remain quite a bit milder than other areas in the country; however even in the South, we can experience unexpected deep freezes—cold snaps—that catch everyone by surprise and unprepared.
Unfortunately, not all homes are built the same. Here in Georgia, many homes are built with water systems located in unprotected, uninsulated parts of the structure. Frozen pipes can often be an intensely messy and expensive emergency and it is important to understand why it happens and how to make sure it doesn’t happen in your home.
While most folks are aware that water expands as it freezes, we often forget to apply this science trivia to our homes. The expansion that occurs when water freezes puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the "strength" of a container, the expansion of water as it freezes can cause pipes to split open and pipe joints to break.
Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets. Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing.
Why Frozen Pipes Are A Problem
The damages caused by frozen pipes can be catastrophic. Just one burst pipe in a home can result in tens of thousands of dollars in damage in a manner matter of minutes, let alone the mold that often results.
Preventing Frozen Pipes
Our plumbers and technicians at Majestic Plumbing & Electric are skilled at inspecting the potential for frozen pipes and can create a recommended plan of action before the onset of cold weather, prevent frozen pipes and water supply lines.
Here are some practical steps you can take to prevent frozen pipes:
- Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer's or installer's directions. (Please do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.)
- Remove, drain, and store garden hoses. Often there are shut-off valves inside your home that control water supply to your outdoor hose connections. Close these valves and open the outside hose valve to allow water to drain. (Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.)
- Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be wrapped with special pipe insulating foam. (Consider having Majestic Plumbing & Electric install special "heat tape" or "heat cable" to provide greater protection for vulnerable water pipes.)
During Cold Weather, Take Preventative Action
- Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
- Leave your kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open to help warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. (Be sure to remove any harmful cleaners or chemicals out of the reach of children.)
- If the weather is very cold outside, consider letting cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. (Running water through the pipe—even at a trickle—can prevent pipes from freezing.)
- Re-program your thermostat to temporarily suspend the use of lower nighttime temperatures. (By keeping the thermostat set to the same temperature, you may incur a higher heating bill, but may prevent a much more costly repair bill for frozen pipes
- If you plan to be away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, setting the temperature to no lower than 55° F.
What to do if you experience a frozen pipe
The first sign of a frozen pipe is often when you see reduced or no water flow at a faucet. Here are some practical tips to follow if you experience this after very cold weather:
- Turn off the main water valve to the house and leave the faucets open.
- DO NOT use any open flame to attempt to thaw the pipe.
- DO NOT use any type of electric heater or hair dryer to directly attempt to thaw the frozen pipes.
- Slowly warm the entire room or crawl space where the frozen pipes are located. (Watch for leaks as the pipes thaw and return to full flow.)
There are no shortcuts or quick fixes once you have frozen pipes. Remember that generalized heat and patience is the best way to get the pipes to thaw. Turning the water back on is best handled with two people, with one person slowly opening the main water valve and the other walking throughout the house to be sure no water is actively leaking.
If water is leaking from frozen pipes, turn off the main water valve immediately and open the lowest hot and cold faucets in your home to allow as much water as possible to drain naturally rather than leak out the frozen pipe.