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Buncombe County News 

This news item expired on 3/10/2013, so the information below could be outdated or incorrect.
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Frozen Pipe Prevention


The potential for frozen pipes increases dramatically when temperatures drop below freezing. Here are some tips to help you keep Frozen pipes like this can be prevented.your pipes from freezing and to help you know what to do if they do freeze.

Be aware of which pipes are most likely to freeze.

  • In an outside wall behind a sink.
  • Where pipes run through crawlspaces under houses.
  • Where exterior faucets are not shut off on the interior.

It's hard to find a spot where cold air hits a pipe directly and freezes the line. It can freeze in that location and keep the whole line from flowing. Look for where a pipe may pass a crawlspace vent, basement window, or run along a sill plate. Look for areas where there is cold air coming in.

Precautions to Take

If you haven’t already taken the steps necessary to avoid pipes freezing here are some precautionary steps you can take:

  • Know where and how to shut off your water from the main shut-off valve.
  • Seal air leaks around pipes that allow cold air to seep in.
  • Insulate pipes near outer walls, in crawl spaces or in attics.
  • In exposed or problem areas, you may use heat tape or heat cables to prevent freezing. Make certain they are UL approved and that you follow manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Disconnect garden hoses, shut off and drain water from pipes leading outside.
  • Turn your faucet on just enough to have constant dripping (for pipes that may be on exterior wall)
  • Open cabinet doors to allow heat to circulate around pipes under a sink. It may be necessary to remove a piece of the drywall so the warm inside air can reach the pipes.
  • Leave heat on and set no lower than 55 degrees.
  • If you plan to be away from home, have someone check on your house daily.
  • Close foundation vents if the temperature drops below freezing for a significant period of time. Re-open when weather warms.
  • Putting a light near a chronic location where pipes freeze will keep the pipe from freezing. Be careful not to let the bulb or lamp get too close to any combustible surface.

If Pipes Freeze

  • Shut off water valves. Stopping the flow of water can minimize the damage to your home.
  • Call a plumber to thaw your pipes. Thawing yourself can lead to greater damage and can be a hazard.
  • If your pipes burst, call a plumber and your insurance agent.

Although we do NOT recommend thawing pipes yourself, if you do try to thaw:

  • Don’t try to thaw the pipes with an open flame or torch. Besides being a fire hazard, the torch’s hot flame may create steam that can burst a pipe.
  • Don’t use ungrounded electrical appliances outdoors, or near grounded water pipes.
  • Be careful of the potential for electric shock in and around water.
  • Never start a debris fire to warm pipes.
  • When thawing pipes, always work from the open faucet toward the frozen area. This will keep steam from being trapped by ice and bursting the pipe.

The safest approach to thawing a frozen pipe is to wrap a towel around the pipe at the suspected area and pour hot water unto it. Slide the towel along the suspect pipe and keep adding hot water until you reach the area where it is frozen. This method will never overheat the pipe or create a fire danger. Be sure to have the faucet or valve turned on so you’ll know when the water begins flowing.

A quick and effective method to thaw pipes is to use a hair dryer, but it can also pose some risks. Never let the pipe get hotter than what you can touch - you don’t want to get it so hot that it generates steam. As long as the pipe feels warm it should be enough to thaw the ice.

For more information, call Buncombe County Cooperative Extension at 255-5522.