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Winter has arrived, and that means bundling up to try to keep warm. You might not realize it, but the pipes on your house need protection from the cold as well if the mercury drops. The Home Depot's Scott Krueger and Joe Autry have steps you need to take to prevent pipes from freezing and how to thaw them out safely, if they do.
How to Keep Pipes from Freezing
Insulate Pipes: Insulate hot and cold water pipes in the crawlspace under your house as well as in the basement, attic, and exterior walls (if accessible) with snap-on foam insulation. Make sure foam insulation fits tightly without gaps. Apply duct tape to joints in insulation, and miter foam around elbows, so joints in pipes are completely covered.
Drip faucets in freezing weather
Heat Pipes: Consider wrapping problem pipes with UL approved heat tape that has a built-in thermostat to prevent overheating. Follow the instructions that come with heat tape carefully to keep from causing a fire hazard.
Sprinkler System: Turn off your sprinkler system, and blow compressed air through the irrigation lines to drain the water.
Drip Faucets: Drip both hot and cold water at faucets in kitchen and bathroom. This not only keeps water moving through the pipes, but relieves built-up water pressure in the pipes if they should freeze. Set single lever faucets in the center so both hot and cold lines drip. Pay particular attention to pipes running in outside walls.
Laundry Room: If there isn't a faucet in the laundry room to drip, set your washing machine on warm, and start the fill cycle periodically for a few minutes to run water through the pipes.
Icemaker: Set your icemaker to make ice if its water line runs under house.
Cabinets: Open cabinet doors under sinks in the kitchen and bath if the cabinets are located on exterior walls, to allow inside heat to pipes.
Cover outside faucets
Garage: Keep garage door closed during extreme cold weather.
Foundation: For houses that have a crawlspace, make sure the foundation is completely enclosed, and fill any gaps in foundation walls with caulking or expanding foam. Close or cover the foundation vents under house during extreme cold weather.
Basement: Close and weather strip exterior basement windows and doors.
Garden Hose: Disconnect and drain garden hoses.
Exterior Faucets: To protect exterior faucet around your foundation, either cover faucets with insulated foam covers, cut off water to exterior faucets and open faucets to drain pipes, or install exterior faucets that cut water supply off inside foundation walls.
Check for Leaks: Once the weather has warmed up, turn off any dripping faucets as well as the icemaker. Monitor the water meter for any unseen leaks.
How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
1. Water Cut-Off: Locate the water main cut-off valve, and have a water cut-off key handy before attempting to thaw out frozen pipes.
2. Open Faucet: Open the faucet the pipe runs to before thawing a frozen pipe to allow water to flow through the pipe and relieve any built-up pressure in the pipe.
3. Heat Frozen Pipe: Use a hair dryer, heat lamp, electric heat tape, or portable space heater to thaw frozen pipes that haven't burst. Start from the interior faucet end of the pipe, and work your way toward colder end of the pipe.
4. Check for Leaks: After pipes have thawed, turn off all water to faucets and the icemaker, and monitor the water meter for any unseen leaks.