Prepare now to prevent unwanted pipe damage later

By Katrina Goforth -

Did you have problems with frozen pipes during the last cold front? It might be warmer now, but with Oklahoma’s fickled weather patterns it’s good to be prepared for the next cold front which is expected to hit on Thursday.

As you probably know, water expands when it freezes. That’s what allows it to take a solid form, which is good if you want ice in your sweet tea but not so good for your pipes. As water expands it puts pressure on metal and plastic pipes and can cause them to burst.

This is especially true for pipes exposed to the cold such as outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines and any other water line that has little or no insulations. Which means that pipes that run along exterior walls with little or no insulation are also susceptible to bursting. Water pipes in unheated interior parts of your home like basements, cellars, crawl spaces, garages and kitchen cabinets can also be at risk.

So how do you prevent frozen pipes? You can start now before the weather gets cold.

The American Red Cross suggests draining water from swimming pools and water sprinkler supply lines according to the manufacturer’s or installer’s guidelines. You might be thinking of using antifreeze, but unless directed, using it can be harmful to the landscaping, wildlife and humans in the area.

You can also drain and store hoses that are usually used outside and close the inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs, leaving the outside valve open so that remaining water can drain and expand without becoming a threat to the pipe.

The American Red Cross also suggests adding insulation in attics, basements and crawl spaces to protect pipes in those areas. You can even insulate water pipes with this newspaper, after you’re done reading it, of course.

When the weather does hit freezing temperatures, open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors so warm air can circulate around the pipes. You can also let the cold water drip from the faucet.

What do you do if you still have a frozen pipe?

Keep the faucet open as you attempt to thaw your frozen pipe. According to the American Red Cross, running water will help melt ice in the pipe.

There are a few options when thawing a frozen pipe. You can apply heat to the pipe with an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, using an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. This heat should be applied until full water pressure is restored.

While these methods are approved by the American Red Cross, the use of a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove or another open flame device is not. A licensed plumber can take care of pipes that cannot be thawed or are inaccessible to prevent the pipe from bursting and causing more damage.

So while you’re enjoying the sunshine and unseasonably mild weather, don’t forget to prepare for the true wintery days.

By Katrina Goforth

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