(KRQE) - What can we do to help safely thaw these frozen pipes and prevent it from freezing during this cold winter weather? Here are a few safety tips I put together to help deal with one of mother nature’s safety hazards.
The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority has some tips to avoid bursting water pipes:
During severe cold snaps, Water Authority operators receive hundreds of calls from people with frozen and burst pipes. Avoid trouble by taking precautions NOW:
Find the master shutoff valve.
The master shutoff valve turns off the water to the entire house. Learn its location and make sure everyone in the household knows where it is. This could be critical if a pipe should burst.
Disconnect and drain outdoor hoses.
Detaching the hose allows water to drain from the pipe so an overnight freeze doesn't burst the faucet or the pipe it’s connected to.
Shut down your sprinkler system.
Turn off the automatic timer and bleed the system of water. It’s time to put your landscaping to bed for the winter.
Insulate pipes or faucets in unheated areas.
Wrap exposed water pipes in unheated areas (such as the garage, basement, crawl space, or space beneath your mobile home) before temperatures plummet. You can find pipe wrapping materials at any hardware or building supply store. For a high-tech solution, consider installing "heat tape" or similar materials on exposed water pipe. Be sure to use only UL-listed products and follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully.
Seal off access doors, air vents, and cracks.
Winter winds whistling through overlooked openings can quickly freeze exposed water pipes. DO NOT plug air vents used by your furnace or water heater.
What if it's too late?
During an extended cold spell, pipes can freeze even if precautions have been taken. If a pipe on your property freezes, the Water Authority recommends that you call a licensed plumber to make necessary repairs. If a pipe on your property bursts and you need an emergency water shut-off, call 842-WATR (842-9287).
Read full PDF Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes
Why pipe freezing is a problem
Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the "strength" of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break. Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hoses, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets. Also, pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing. Pipe freezing is a particular problem in warmer climates where pipes often run through un-insulated walls or under insulated attics or crawl spaces.
Preventing Frozen Pipes
Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of these water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:
- Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer's or installer's directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
- Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
- Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located and are in unheated areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated. A hot water supply line can freeze just as a cold water supply line can freeze if the water is not running through the pipe and the water temperature in the pipe is cold.
- Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a "pipe sleeve" or installing UL-listed "heat tape," "heat cable," or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Many products are available at your local building supplies retailer. Pipes should be carefully wrapped, with ends butted tightly and joints wrapped with tape. Follow manufacturer's recommendations for installing and using these products. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes - even ¼" of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.
During Cold Weather, Take Preventive Action
- Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
- When the weather is