Janna Kelley OSU Extension Educator
The Ada News
When the weather outside dips into freezing temperatures, the last thing homeowners want to deal with is frozen pipes, or worse yet, busted pipes.
Although Oklahoma residents are just now experiencing really cold weather, there are steps that can be taken to help prevent a frozen catastrophe. Frozen pipes not only are a nuisance, but if the pipes burst, it can cause significant damage to your home. Winter temperatures are just now knocking on our doors and with the official start of winter still a few days away, it’s a good idea to take steps to help prevent any problems.
You know there is a problem if you turn on the faucet and only a trickle of water, or possibly no water at all, comes out. This is the first indication the pipes are frozen.
There are some simple, cost-effective ways to help ensure the pipes in your home remain in good shape for the winter season.
First, try to keep the pipes as warm as possible. Keep the garage door closed and be sure the foundation vents are closed any time the temperature is below the freezing mark. Also, disconnect any outdoor hoses to prevent ice from causing damage to the hose or coupling.
Inside the house you should open cabinet doors under all of the sinks to help circulate warm air. This is especially true for any plumbing on exterior walls.
Other ideas may have some cost involved include insulating the water pipes. Insulating both hot and cold pipes in unheated areas such as crawl spaces, outer walls and attics can help reduce heat loss and helps protect pipes from freezing. Foam insulation tubes are fairly easy to install and cost just a few dollars for 6 feet of tubing.
Homeowners and landlords also should consider sealing around water pipes where the pipes come into the house. Not only does this help protect the pipes from freezing, but also helps save on energy costs. In addition, household pests such as bugs and mice will no longer be able to enter your home through openings around the pipes.
Keep in mind what you spend to insulate your pipes is minimal compared to the cost of repairing broken pipes and other damage the water will cause.
For those who find themselves with frozen pipes, check to see if there is any dripping or standing water. If not, simply be patient. Open the faucet, and then slowly apply heat to the frozen area. One way to do this is with an electric hair dryer. Remember water and electricity do not mix. It is not a good idea to use open torches on frozen pipes as this may cause even more serious damage.
Homeowners should contact their plumber immediately if they begin to see evidence of leaking. Renters should contact the landlord.
If you see evidence of a broken pipe, locate the water supply valve and shut it off. This will help minimize water damage to the home.
Frozen or broken pipes are just one issue Oklahomans may face when the temperature is freezing or below for an extended period of time. Your best strategy is to try to prevent the pipes from freezing in the first place. If you are faced with frozen or broken pipes, taking quick action to restore comfort and prevent further damage is your best bet.