One of the most prevalent home insurance claims that are reported when there is a power outage during cold weather is that of frozen water pipes.
Water pipes that are located in the exterior walls of your home are most at risk of freezing. If your kitchen or bathroom is located against an exterior wall, you need to take steps to prevent these pipes from bursting and causing major water damage in your home.
What Causes pipes to burst?
It is not the expansion of ice against the wall of the pipe that causes a pipe to break. It is the continued freezing that causes water pressure to increase between the ice blockage and a closed water faucet that leads to the pipe’s failure.
The pipe may not burst where it is actually frozen.
There are three things that you can do to help prevent this from happening.
1. Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing in the cabinets under the sinks. This will help keep the pipes warmer and therefore help prevent freezing.
2. Turn on both hot and cold taps to allow a steady drip of water from the sinks, bath tub and shower.
Yes, the dripping faucets will waste some water, so open only the taps that are supplied by pipes that are vulnerable to freezing. These are the ones that run through an exterior wall or unheated area. If unsure, let all taps drip. It is less expensive than repairing water damage.
Even the slowest drip will provide pressure relief when there is a risk of freezing. If there is no excessive water pressure, there is no burst pipe, even if the water inside the pipe freezes.
Where both hot and cold lines serve a single spout, make sure that each one contributes to the slow water flow. If the dripping stops continue to leave all the faucets open. A pipe may have frozen and will still need to have pressure relief.
3. In really cold temperatures, you should consider draining all the water from the pipes.
This is the very best safeguard against damage. With no water in the pipes, there is no freezing. This course of action should be used whenever there is a serious threat of the pipes in your home freezing.
To drain the system you must first shut off the water pipe main valve where the water supply enters your home. If there is a drain cock on the shutoff valve, open it.
Then open every water tap in the house, both hot and cold, until there is no more water running. The water will drain out through the lowest faucets until the pipes are empty.
The hot water tank should also be drained if it is located in an area where the temperature may fall below freezing for an extended time. There is a drain valve located on the side of the tank near the floor.
If you do have a frozen pipe, apply heat to that section of pipe by wrapping it with towels soaked in hot water.
Do not use any type of torch, propane heater, kerosene or a charcoal BBQ to thaw frozen pipes. Application of high heat can make the water in a frozen pipe boil and the pipe to explode, with the possibility of serious injury.
Remember that all open flames inside your home present a serious fire hazard, as well as a very severe risk of exposure to lethal carbon monoxide.