If you’re in the North, you probably know that warm pipes are happy pipes! Some of our Southern neighbors don’t have that experience with the cold winters. The weather this week is going to be a doozy – much of the East coast is already feeling those frigid temps. Don’t let frozen pipes be in your future though – take some proactive steps before it gets even colder later this week.
Keep those faucets dripping… but don’t forget about the hot water!
If you’re concerned about your faucets freezing over night, have them on a drip before heading to bed. (You’ll read this everywhere!) However, remember not to just turn on the cold water – which is commonly what people do. While your hot water is HOT, that water sitting in the pipes can become icy cold during these low temp nights and freeze up. So keep them both flowing just a bit!
Now the question is, which faucet should you leave dripping? If you know the area your water enters your home, choose a faucet furthest away from this to make sure the water is traveling through the entirety of your pipe system. Unsure where your water enters? Keep two faucets dripping at opposite ends. And please… make sure the trickling water can drain – don’t stop up the sink!
Warm thermostat, warm pipes
Keep the thermostat on. Don’t worry, you don’t need to sleep in 85 degree heat – 55 degrees is plenty warm to reduce the chance of frozen pipes. If you rent though, check your lease or call up your landlord to confirm that’s warm enough. Some rental agreements require tenants to keep their thermostat at a higher temperature, mostly for peace of mind. In addition, open the cupboards below sinks open to the warm areas if possible.
Have more time to prepapre?
If you have extra time to spare, insulate your pipes with pipe insulation, or apply heat tape to those pipes most at risk. This can be a more major undertaking, so if you’re up to the job, keep those fingers warm with insulated gloves while you’re working. If you’re in an area that dips down to just freezing temps each year, consider making it a spring time job in a few months if you don’t have the time now. That way, next year you’ll have a little less to fret about.
It’s too late! My pipes are frozen!
Don’t panic – just get them warmed up before they burst if possible. The first thing you need to do is figure out which pipe is frozen. If water is flowing through some pipes and not others, you can use deductive reasoning to narrow down the area. By using common sense you can also figure out the likeliest places that pipes would freeze: places without access to warm air are the most obvious, such as uninsulated attics or basements, or pipes near vents or outer walls. Things like concrete retain temperature (cold or hot!) so check pipes near blocks of concrete.
Something as simple as a hair dryer can be your saving grace in this situation. Turn that sucker on and hold it near the pipe moving back and forth to evenly warm it. This will cause relatively quick thawing, typically. Having said this, please be careful not to start a fire while thawing them out.
If you think your pipes have burst, turn off the main water valve to your home, and call a plumber. (Leave the faucets on in this circumstance.)
Still nervous about keeping those pipes warm? Fill up 3 gallons of water per person in your household for each day you think you’ll be settling into below-freezing temps. My suspicions say if you’re filling up those gallons now, you’re probably the person who also already prepped for the possibility of frozen pipes to begin with, but there’s nothing like feeling a little extra safe in these circumstances. Stay safe during this cold spell!