January 17th, 2024
Preventing and Responding to Frozen Pipes
With the ongoing cold weather, Morgantown Utility Board offers these tips to help you prevent and respond to frozen pipes. When water freezes within a pipe, it expands. This expansion increases pressure on the inside of the pipe walls, causing it to potentially expand and crack or burst. This can result in damage and expensive repairs.
Here are some tips to avoid such calamities and what to do if a pipe freezes.
Below are some simple and inexpensive tips to help prevent pipes from freezing and to protect from a catastrophic leak:
- Foremost, locate all valves within the home. This will allow shutting off water to specific areas rather than the entire home. However, also know where the main shutoff is to the home. This can normally be found near or at the point where the main water pipe enters the home.
- Begin by searching for places where cold air may be entering the home near pipes. This is especially true near dryer vents or where any type of pipe or cable enters the home. If you find a crack, use caulk to seal it.
- Disconnect the water hose from the outdoor spigot/hose bib. If the outdoor hose has a shutoff valve, be sure to close it then drain the water from the spigot itself then install a frost cover. A video on accomplishing this can be found at https://youtu.be/gSfxP06fj2k.
- Pipe insulation is inexpensive, easy to cut and simple to install. It can be found in nearly any hardware store.
- Another method is to install pipe heat tape. This tape is installed along the side of a pipe or wraps around it in candy cane fashion. The tape typically plugs into an outlet.
- When cold weather hits, turn on the hot and cold water to allow a slight drip. This allows water to continuously flow through the pipe, helping to prevent it from freezing.
- Open the doors to cabinets that contain pipes. This will allow warm air to circulate inside the cabinet.
- If you’re aware of an area prone to freezing, place a space heater in a safe location near the pipe.
- If traveling or away from home for an extended period, ask a neighbor to regularly check on your home to ensure that a pipe has not burst. In many neighborhoods there are local residents who, for a small fee, offer services to check on homes while owners are away. Whether using a neighbor or a service, be sure to do two things. First, ensure that they know where the primary shutoff valve is for the water supply in the home. Take time to show them how to turn the water off in case of an emergency. Second, provide an emergency number for a trusted plumber should a burst or leaking pipe be found.
Responding to a Frozen Pipe
Quick action in the event of a leak or burst pipe can save significant dollars and damage. Here are some tips to possibly identify and respond to frozen and leaking/burst pipes.
- An early indicator that a pipe is freezing can be a small trickle of water coming from a faucet within the home. If you notice this, it’s important to check along water supply lines for very cold spots. If you find such a spot along a line, here are action steps to take until water pressure returns to normal:
- Turn the faucet in which a trickle was noticed to a point where at least a small water flow should occur. This will allow you to know when the pipe is thawed.
- Wrap that area of the pipe with a heating pad, turning the temperature dial to high.
- With a hair dryer turned to its highest temperature, aim it at the cold area using a sweeping motion across a 12-to-16-inch sections of the pipe.
- Wrap the pipe with a cloth soaked in hot water. Change the cloth as frequently as possible.
- Place a space heater in the area of the pipe.
- NEVER attempt to thaw a pipe with an open flame. This is not only an obvious fire hazard but can cause damage to the pipe.
- If a pipe bursts or begins to leak, shut off the valve that connects to that line or shut off the water to the entire house and call a plumber.
Remember: If you have questions on water quality or experience water or sewer issues, contact MUB by phone at (304) 292-8443 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.