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Cold weather brings tips for frozen pipes

FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2011 file photo, ice coats leaking pipes in a downtown Cleveland alley, in Ohio. With much of the nation gripped in record cold at some point this winter, homeowners have had to deal with pipes freezing, and then bursting. Damage from a burst pipe can vary greatly, depending on the amount of time that the water runs unabated. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File)

As winter weather is well under way, don’t forget to protect your pipes from freezing.

Water expands as it freezes.

As it expands, this puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes.

No matter the strength of the container, expanding waster can cause pipes to break.

Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor facets, 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.

Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing.

Below is a quick guide to prevent frozen pipes, and how to thaw pipes if they are frozen:

Prevent freezing of these water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:

1. Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines.

2. Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors.

3. Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located 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.

4. 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. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes.

5. Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.

6. Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.

7. When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.

8. Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you can prevent a costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.

9. If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

How to thaw pipes if they are frozen:

1. If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.

2. Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.

3. Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use an open flame device.

4. Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.

5. Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

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