How To Prevent and Thaw Frozen Pipes in Cold Weather

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How To Prevent and Thaw Frozen Pipes in Cold Weather

The temperature at which your water pipes are exposed to the cold outside can affect the way they operate. This is especially true in unheated areas like basements, crawl spaces and even your garage. With this in mind, it’s crucial to know how to prevent frozen pipes.

Temperatures below freezing can cause your pipes to freeze and burst, which will result in a huge repair bill. In addition, frozen pipes can damage the insulation of your home and make your heating system work harder than it normally does.

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

So what steps should be taken to prevent frozen pipes during cold or freezing weather? Learn how to prevent frozen pipes and how to thaw frozen pipes in our guide.

Insulate Pipes Throughout Your Plumbing System

Insulating your hot and cold pipes is an inexpensive way to reduce the chances that your pipes will freeze. It also helps prevent mineral deposits, which can lead to rust and corrosion of the internal plumbing.

Using pipe sleeves or heat tape can help insulate plumbing to prevent freezing. Check under kitchen and bathroom cabinets for pipes that are close to external walls and lack proper insulation.

Drain Unused Pipes, Hoses, and Water Supply Lines

Pipes in your plumbing that have still water inside are at the highest risk of freezing in cold weather. Since the water is not moving, it is unable to avoid freezing when in contact with a freezing pipe.

Make sure that hoses have been drained and detached so cold air and water does not cause freezing deeper into the plumbing system.

Keep External Doors Closed and Internal Doors Opened

Doors that lead outside, such as a front door or garage door should be kept shut during cold weather. This keeps cold air out of vulnerable areas like basements and crawl spaces.

Doors leading into a bathroom or any room with plumbing should be kept open, so warm air inside can circulate and prevent unnecessary cooling.

Keep The Heat On Low Inside

Keeping your thermostat at the same temperature both during the day and night can help prevent this from happening.

If you are going on vacation during very cold weather, leave the thermostat set to a temperature no lower than 55°F. This will allow your home to warm up during the day and reduce the amount of electricity used to heat it.

Let Faucets Drip During Freezing Weather

By letting faucets drip during cold weather, the water in the pipes stays in motion and thus less likely to freeze.

A small drip from plumbing fixtures uses only minimal amounts of water but should only be done under periodic supervision.

How To Thaw Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes can be a frightening issue for homeowners. Not only can they burst, but the damage they cause is often costly as well. Fortunately, you have control of the situation by taking steps to thaw out your pipes before they burst.

Identifying a Frozen Pipe

Before beginning to thaw out frozen pipes, it’s essential to locate them. To do this, turn on all faucets and follow the plumbing lines as they move away from each fixture.

The quickest way to spot a frozen pipe is by running your hands along its length until you feel a sudden drop in temperature.

Cut Off The Water Supply

Once you’ve identified a frozen pipe, shut off the water to that area. Doing so will release pressure and keep additional cold water from accumulating as ice along the pipe.

Apply Heat To Thaw the Pipe

Heat is the fastest way to thaw a frozen pipe. You can use either a blow dryer or heating gun, just make sure the pipe is completely dry before starting.

If you don’t have access to a hair dryer, try using warm towels around frozen pipes. Soak the towel in hot water then wrap it over the frozen section several times until all traces of ice have melted away.

Make sure not to heat a frozen pipe too quickly. Doing so can weaken the pipe and cause it to crack, resulting in much worse issues.

Work Your Way Down to the Blockage

Start by thawing out the pipe where water is delivered, then work your way down toward the blocked section. Doing this allows melting ice to escape through the faucet rather than getting stuck behind it.

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Casey Loeber

Casey Loeber is the founder of His mission is to share the best information online about plumbing jobs and help plumbers lead fulfilling careers.

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