The plumbing in your home may be subject to freezing, if there are pipes along exterior walls or in areas that are void of heat for any amount of time (power outage). When your water suddenly stops or begins to slow during the cold weather months, prompt action may save you some serious repairs.
If you should find yourself without heat and expect the power to be off for more than a few hours, you should take some steps to prevent the pipes from freezing.
- If you are on municipal water open a few faucets just a little to keep the water moving in the pipes.
- If you are on a well, relieve the pressure in your system by filling a bucket(or two) from a low point in your system (such as the laundry tub), and open the faucets upstairs to allow the water to drain. You can use the water you save in the buckets for flushing your toilets or drinking while the power is off.
How to Thaw Pipes
If you have a frozen section of pipe. there are a few methods that you can try to get the water flowing again, but make sure there are no broken areas of pipe first (Burst Pipes). If there is a break in the pipe, make the repairs first and then thaw out the pipe.
- Start from the farthest affected area and work your way back to the water service(where it enters the home).
- Method 1 - Hair dryer / heat gun - Using a hair dryer to thaw the pipe works well because most homeowners have access to one.
- Method 2 - Electric heat tape is available from most hardware stores and will thaw your pipes quickly and keep them from freezing in the future. Just follow the instructions on the packaging.
Safety - Do not use a blow torch to thaw your pipes as steam may cause the pipe to burst. Don't use electric tools if you are standing in water.
Repairing Burst Pipes
Most broken pipes caused from freezing will be able to be repaired with a coupling (or two). If the hole can be completely covered with a coupling, simply cut the pipe directly over the hole and file or use a hammer to shape the pipe back to normal diameter and solder or glue the coupling in. For help with, soldering see this article.
Temporary repairs can always be made until you can permanently repair the damaged section. Try using some pieces of rubber (ex:old piece of hose, tire tube) and hose clamps, even a tightly tied rag over the hole and a bucket underneath is better than nothing. If you are having troubles hope on the forum to ask specific plumbing questions.