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Prevent Frozen Water Pipes from Causing Costly Home Repairs

Turning on a faucet in your home to get water is something one can easily take for granted — that is, until pipes freeze and put that tap on hold. Beyond the inconvenience of not being able to get water, frozen pipes can burst, causing devastating and costly home repairs. But if armed with a these simple strategies, you can learn to safely thaw those pipes and/or prevent them from freezing. Here’s how:
What to Do When Pipes Freeze
•    If you turn on your faucet only to find a trickle coming out, you probably have frozen pipes. To find the source, look in areas of your home where it’s coldest or where exterior pipes are not insulated.
•    Apply heat to the frozen area by wrapping an electric heating pad around the pipe, using an electric hair dryer, or portable space heater. Use caution if you decide to use electric devices and be sure the electric appliances do not make contact with water. Do not use a blowtorch, or other open-flame devices such as a propane or kerosene heater. Keep faucets open and apply heat until full water pressure is restored.
•    If you are unable to access the frozen area or cannot locate it, contact a licensed plumber. Check all faucets to be sure they are working. Often when one pipe freezes, others may as well.
How to Prevent Your Pipes from Freezing
•    Water expands as it freezes, putting pressure on pipes, often causing them to break. Pipes that are most vulnerable are those located in areas exposed to extreme cold, such as those located outdoors. But interior pipes are also subject to freezing, especially if located in typically unheated areas of the home such as garages, crawl spaces, attics, basements and kitchen cabinets. You can try to facilitate getting warmer air to some of these areas by opening kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to let warmer air circulate around the pipes. But be sure to remove any harmful chemicals or cleaners and put them out of the reach of children. If you have water supply lines in the garage, keep garage doors closed.
•    Insulating pipes in cold areas of the home is another great way to prevent pipes from freezing. Using foam pipe insulation is an economical way to do this but thermostatically controlled heat tape can also be used, especially for pipes exposed to extreme cold.
•    When the weather turns extremely cold outside, open the cold water faucet enough to allow a continuous trickle of water. The movement of the water through the pipes helps prevent them from freezing.
•    Keeping the thermostat set to the same temperature during the night as during the day can be effective in keeping pipes from freezing. While this may cause your heating bill to temporarily be a bit higher, it will prevent a much more costly repair than if your pipes burst.