Frozen Pipes

This strange winter continues.  This season’s widely fluctuating temperatures are not only hard on our wardrobe choices, but they can be strenuous on our pipes.  A good, deep freeze can be a major problem.  When water within a pipe freezes, the pipe expands – exerting pressure of over 2,000 pounds per square inch – and ruptures the pipe, spilling gallons of water per hour.  That translates to thousands of dollars of damage to your home.  You’ll wish you were still renting!  Take the time to prevent your pipes from freezing and relax this winter.

Pipes that are particularly susceptible to freezing are often located in an outside wall, under a sink on an outside wall, or, in unheated spaces.  A frozen pipe only yields a trickle of water, if any at all.  If you guess that your pipe is frozen, but hasn’t yet ruptured, try thawing it with a few, safe techniques.  “Safe” means no blow torching.  It’s tempting, but don’t even think about it.  Burning the house down will only exacerbate your problems.

hair-dryerTry this instead:  open the faucet and try to find the location of the blockage.  Often, the frozen area will have frost or ice on it.   If the pipe is exposed and accessible, you have a couple of options to try to thaw the pipe.  The easiest and safest is with a high-power hair dryer.  Before you fire it up, open the main water valve, (near your water meter) and heat the pipe from the faucet toward the frozen area. Water will flow more easily as the ice melts, and the water pressure in the pipe will force the ice out once it begins to melt.

space-heaterAn incandescent heat lamp, or a small, portable heater are also effective, and come in handy in small spaces, like under a kitchen sink or bathroom vanity.  Just remember to keep an eye on electrical items at all times!  If, while you’re working your magic on a frozen pipe, it actually bursts before you can thaw it, turn off your water supply at the water main.  You know the situation is critical when the pipe is bulging, or beginning to fissure.

If, after some sleuthing, you find that the frozen pipe is behind a wall or ceiling, you officially have a situation.  You could turn up the heat in the house and wait, or tear out the wall or ceiling section to expose the frozen section of pipe, and thaw it. If you don’t have the stomach to take a mallet to your hand-painted, Mexican tile, then we recommend calling for back-up from your HandiCo handyman.


If you are ever in doubt about the safety of your pipes, it is recommended to contact a specialist.  Keeping your pipes from freezing is better than fixing them after they do.  One preventative option is to let air circulate around kitchen base cabinets by opening doors.  You might also like to wrap a problem pipe with electrical heat tape, or foam insulation wrap.  If you prefer a more hands-off approach, stay on high alert with an IP Thermostat.  This gadget enables you to control and monitor your home’s thermostat from the Internet. It provides email alarm notifications of low temperatures, danger of frozen or freezing water pipes, and other critical alerts in real time so that you can stay ahead of situations that can cause damage to your property, even monitor and control your thermostat from your iPhone.


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