Living in Omaha means growing accustomed to extreme temperature swings, not only season to season, but sometimes day to day. In the morning, you may find yourself bundled to the max, and by late afternoon you may be sweating in just a hoodie. These extreme fluctuations can have unexpected consequences.
We were asked by local media – both print and television – about your pipes freezing.
Read the article here on KMTV channel 3 or watch the video here.
Why Pipes Crack
You wake up in the morning and shuffle into the bathroom to splash your face, but find yourself suddenly wide awake and splashing through ice cold water on your floor. A cursory investigation reveals the culprit: a very fine crack along the pipe under your sink. What could have happened?
When water freezes, it expands. Water has very little room to expand in the pipe, and this alone can cause a break. Even if the stream itself doesn’t freeze solid, chunks of ice may form and block the proper flow, causing pressure to build in the pipe. The result can range from a slow drip to a frosty flood, costing anything between a few frustrating hours of cleanup and tens of thousands of dollars in repairs and replacement of waterlogged furniture and valuables.
How to Unfreeze Your Assets
Even if you take every precaution, there is still a possibility your pipes will freeze. A sudden, unexpected drop in temperature, a power outage, or a last-minute extension of your holiday plans could be all that stands between you and your frigid foe. The earlier you catch the freeze, the more likely it is that you can prevent damage. The minute you notice frost forming or bulging of the pipe, it’s time to take action.
-First, leave your water supply open, and begin a slow drip. Any running water is warmer than the water frozen in your pipe, and can help thaw it out. Additionally, the pressure will aid in loosening the ice as it begins to break apart.
-Second, turn the heat up! Turning your thermostat to greater than 80 degrees will help warm air circulate. Open all cabinets leading to water sources to allow the warmth to reach them.
-Third, work your way toward the water source. A heated blanket wrapped around the pipe, thermal tape, and even a hair dryer aimed at the pipe beginning as far from the water source as possible can safely thaw the pipe before it bursts. Start at the faucet and work your way toward the water source. The reason for this is that pressure can build if you begin thawing between two frozen points, causing pressure to build and possibly rupture the pipe.
Three Things to Never Do When Pipes Freeze
- Never EVER, EVER, EVER use a flame
- Do not pour boiling water directly into the drain, or apply a heating tool designed to heat above the boiling point of water. This would include soldering irons, any open flame, or hot plates. If the water in the pipes heats to the point of boiling, you risk bursting the pipe. Additionally, when the water in the pipes begins to thaw it will frequently spray, risking serious burns and injury.
- Never leave a space heater, heating element, or electric blanket unattended. In addition to the risk of fire, when your pipe thaws it will likely leak or drip condensation. Electronics left near this can be a shock hazard.
Finally, you will want to call a trusted Eyman Technician to inspect the pipe for damage. Catching a crack before it become a fully burst pipe can save you thousands in flood damage.
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes
There are several steps you can take to frost-proof your pipes, and many are free, cheap, or something you may already be doing!
- Drain your sprinkler system at the end of summer, disconnect hoses, and shut off water to these areas. Your snowmen will not be needing showers, so shut down the outdoor water supply.
- Keep your home warm. Warm air circulating through your home will help prevent frost and ice from forming in pipes. Even if you are planning a quick trip out of town, leave your thermostat set higher than 60. An unexpected cold snap while you’re away could lead to a very unpleasant surprise when you get home.
- Pipe insulation is an inexpensive preventative measure to a possibly expensive disaster.
- On especially cold days, leave your water dripping. This is really only important on the supply deepest in the house. The water will have to run through the entire house to reach the furthest spot, ensuring circulation- and just as a rolling stone gathers no moss, moving water is less likely to freeze.
There are few things guaranteed in life, but there are two things you can count on: Winter will offer several dangerously cold days, and Eyman will always be there to answer your call!