The damage caused by frozen and broken water pipes is second only to hurricane damage. Repair costs typically range in tens of thousands of dollars. Most freeze damage occurs within a few hours of a house being filled with water from burst pipes:
Mold and mildew in walls
Destroyed valuables and irreplaceable items
Prevent Freeze Damage
When frozen pipes burst, water floods the home, ruining everything in its path. There are simple things you can do to prevent this costly damage:
Disconnect all hoses and outside water connections. Shut off and drain water from inside pipes leading to outside faucets. Homeowners might also consider foam insulation for outdoor faucets.
Seal any leaks in your home, especially in the kitchen and bathroom.
Insulate exposed pipes with heat tape or northern exposures. Be careful though, because improper insulation could cause a fire.
Keep your thermostat set to at least 55 degrees when the house is vacant during the winter.
Have someone look in on your pipes when you go on vacation.
Drain and shut your water off completely if you are planning on being away from home for an extended period of time during winter months.
Install a freeze alarm that will alert you of extreme temperatures.
Freeze alarms are a simple way to prevent expensive damage to your home and possessions. They are designed to call up to four numbers when there is an alarm condition so you can prevent freeze damage. Many freeze alarms also monitor for power failure and water leakage.
Thaw Frozen Pipes The Right Way
In addition to properly preparing your home for extreme temperatures, if you do experience frozen pipes, you need to handle it the right way. After a winter vacation or a winter storm, check all your pipes for freeze damage. The American Red Cross had published the proper way to thaw your frozen pipes to prevent the most damage:
· Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt more ice in the pipe.
· Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, and electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device. A blowtorch can make water in a frozen pipe boil and cause the pipe to explode. All open flames in homes present a serious fire danger, as well as a severe risk of exposure to lethal carbon monoxide.
· Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
· Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
Defend your home against intrusion and fire, but don’t forget to protect it from the damage caused by extremely cold temperatures. Freeze damage can be costly or impossible to repair so take the preventative measures outlined in this article for safe and happy winters.