Even during mild years, winter in Kansas usually means bitter cold and harsh winds. Freezing temperatures can cause unprotected water lines to freeze, creating a big mess and costly damage if they burst. Fortunately, there are a few easy ways you can protect your pipes and prevent a catastrophe.
What Causes Pipes to Burst?
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not ice expanding in the pipe that causes it to burst, it’s the pressure that builds up between the faucet and the frozen point. If the water lines thaw before the pressure becomes too great, the pipe will remain intact. However, if they stay frozen for too long, or freeze, thaw and refreeze a few times, the unfrozen water in the pipe will eventually have enough pressure on it that it will cause a rupture in the line. When that happens, thousands of gallons of water could pour freely from the pipe before anyone even notices the leak.
Ways to Prevent Frozen Water Lines
Before cold weather hits, insulate water pipes in the unheated parts of your home, like the attic, crawlspace, and garage, by wrapping them with newspaper or covering them with foam insulating sleeves.
If water lines run through your garage or the exterior wall that connects to it, close your garage door on cold days to add an extra layer of protection from the cold air and wind.
When the temperatures are expected to be especially low, leave the doors open on the cabinets under your sinks, and let water drip from the faucets. This will allow warm air from the rest of your home to circulate around the pipes to prevent freezing, and the dripping water will prevent pressure from building up in the lines.
If you’ll be traveling or just away from home for an extended period of time during cold months, don’t set your thermostat any lower than 55 degrees. It’s also a good idea to shut off your main water supply and open each faucet to let the water drain from the pipes.
Hire a professional plumber to install a water pipe heater or heat tape, which applies heat directly to your water lines to prevent freezing.
A licensed plumber can also re-route your supply lines and water pipes away from unheated areas of your home, like the garage and exterior walls.
What to Do if Your Pipes Freeze
As soon as you realize you have a frozen pipe, turn off the main shut-off valve for your water. This will limit the amount of water that could leak into your home if the pipe breaks.
Next, call a professional plumber to help you safely thaw the water lines.
Be cautious of water leaking from the thawing pipes near electrical wiring and appliances. Water and electricity is a dangerous mix.
Do not attempt to thaw your pipes with items such as an open flame, blow torch, or heat lamp. These could cause a fire, electrocution, or even an explosion from a build-up of steam pressure.
If a water pipe does burst, call Reddi Plumbing at 316-847-4277 for emergency service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in Wichita and the surrounding areas.