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How to Prevent Frozen Pipes in Winter

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Winter weather can cause your pipes to freeze or even burst, leading to costly repairs and major inconvenience. The best way to combat frozen pipes is to prepare in advance and know what to do in the worst-case scenario. Below are some of the best ways to eliminate the risk of frozen pipes when cold weather strikes.

Map Out Problem Areas:

Look for places around your home where the pipes are most likely to freeze. This means any pipes that run through exterior walls, the basement, the attic or the foundation. Because they are more exposed to the elements, these problem areas are almost always the first pipes to freeze and burst. Knowing which pipes are vulnerable is the first step towards preventing future damage.

Invest in Insulation:

Some of the best methods of preventing frozen pipes are also the least expensive. Insulating pipe sleeves can be used to cover at-risk pipes, with heat tape serving as another alternative for smaller pipes or pipes in confined spaces. In a pinch, even bath towels and duct tape can be used to provide a bit of extra insulation against the cold.

Turn on the Heat:

If you have a programmable thermostat, consider setting it so that the indoor temperature remains steady overnight. Since outdoor temperatures can dip dramatically when the sun goes down, turning on the heat can reduce the risk of waking up to a burst pipe.

Let the Faucets Drip:

If you are facing down a cold front or the prospect of a snap freeze, it's vital that you leave your faucets dripping both day and night. Even the smallest water flow is usually enough to prevent pipes from bursting, especially if the pipes are insulated. Turning on the faucets can also help you determine whether all of your pipes are at risk, or whether only certain ones seem to be experiencing problems

Warm Them Up:

If you are able to pin down a specific section of pipe that you suspect has frozen, you can still take action before the pipe bursts by applying heat to it. Soak a towel in hot water and drape it over the pipe, or use a hairdryer to melt ice from the outside. Space heaters can be used if the pipe is an open area and away from any flammable materials, but never apply sources of direct flame such as blowtorches or kerosene lamps.

Contact a Professional:

In some cases, you may simply be unable to deal with the problem on your own. If you can't locate the pipe or if it is in an inaccessible area, consider calling a local licensed plumber to resolve the issue. Keep in mind that paying for professional help costs much less than dealing with a burst pipe.

Being prepared and informed is the absolute best way to avoid the hassle of dealing with burst pipes in the winter. By using the tips and techniques above, anyone can prevent their pipes from freezing or have the knowledge necessary to thaw them out if they do.