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Here's how to fix – or prevent – frozen pipes

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Posted on January 4, 2018 |
By Addison Independent



ADDISON COUNTY — Continued frigid weather this month brings back the reality of frozen pipes to Addison County residents. To help residents to be prepared and informed — and avoid the messy and often expensive issue of frozen pipes — the American Red Cross has provided the following information both to prevent water pipes in the home from freezing, and how to thaw them if they do freeze.

The Problem

Water has a unique property — it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the “strength” of a container, expanding water can cause pipes 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.

Preventative Actions

There are a number of simple actions to take to help prevent freezing. For starters, keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage. Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing, being sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.

When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe — even at a trickle — helps prevent pipes from freezing.

Keeping the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night is also helpful. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.

For those going away during cold weather, leave the heat on, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

Thawing Frozen Pipes

If using a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where water service enters the home through the foundation.

Keep the faucet open. As the frozen pipe is treated and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.

Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.

Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if the pipe won’t thaw call a licensed plumber. Be sure to check all other faucets in case there are additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

Future Protection

To prevent frozen pipes in the future, consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing. (A professional can relocate pipes if the home is remodeled). Likewise, Added insulation in attics, basements and crawl spaces will maintain higher temperatures in these areas .

Licensed plumbers or building professionals can provide residents with more tips and strategies to prevent future freezes.

Town of Middlebury residents can contact the Water Department at 388-4045 with questions about the need to trickle a faucet. If on a septic system, finding an alternative way to dispose of this trickle water is recommended.

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