The first freeze of the season is always the one that catches you off guard. Especially this year as Colorado temperatures plummeted to the 20’s.
The best way to prevent frozen pipes is to be prepared for the cold before it happens, but when it does catch you off guard, fixing it is your first concern, followed by protecting yourself from further incidents.
Frozen water pipes put your home at risk during unexpected cold spells. When water freezes in a pipe, it expands to as much as 2000 pounds of pressure per square inch. With no other place to go, this pressure causes the pipe to rupture, allowing water to continue to spill until it is turned off. If you aren’t at home and don’t notice it for several hours or more, that can add hundreds of gallons of water to your surrounding landscape, or build up on the floor in your home.
While the most at-risk place this time of year is your hoses, outside water spickets, and sprinkler system, freezing pipes can also occur to pipes along outside walls, under sinks on an outside wall, or in unheated crawlspaces or basements.
Unthawing Frozen Pipes
While some pipes may burst under pressure, others may remain frozen if the weather conditions remain constant. If you find a frozen pipe before it bursts, there are things you can do to unthaw the pipe, and protect the surrounding area from water damage.
Start by opening up the faucet supplied by the frozen pipe. This will help alleviate pressure. Identify which pipe is frozen, and locate the area of blockage. In many cases frozen pipes will be frosted, or have ice covering it. They may also be slightly bulged where the ice is building. Then heat the pipe, starting at the faucet and working down towards the frozen pipe. This will allow water to flow out the faucet as it unthaws, as opposed to backing up into the system, increasing the risk for bursting.