Understanding How Plumbers Deal With Frozen Pipes

Winter temperatures in the Indianapolis area often drop well below freezing. This has the potential to cause your pipes to freeze if you’re not careful. Having a water or sewer line freeze can lead to cracked pipes, flooding and water damage.

The reason for this issue is that as the water inside the pipe begins to freeze and turn into ice, it expands. If a pipe is a closed system full of water, the additional volume created by the ice has no place to go. This can cause the pipe to burst and water to flood your home. For this reason, it is essential that you protect your pipes from freezing by using insulation and draining outdoor water sources during the winter months. If your pipes still freeze despite this protection, take steps to take care of the frozen pipe before it bursts. With that in mind, here is an overview of how plumbers fix frozen pipes and steps you can take to help prevent this problem from happening.

Thawing Out a Frozen Pipe

Many homes use copper pipes for their water lines, which is both good and bad for different reasons. Copper is primarily used because it is safe, non-reactive and won’t rust or corrode. It does have downsides at low temperatures, however.

The lack of insulative properties makes copper pipes more likely than other materials to freeze in cold temperatures. Copper pipes may also crack or burst when they freeze due to their brittle nature at low temperatures. For this reason, it is important to immediately begin trying to thaw the pipe out as soon as you notice it has frozen. Today, homes are beginning to use plastic PEX piping instead of copper. This type of pipe is flexible enough to expand when it is filled with ice.

No matter what type of water lines your home has, the first step is to shut off your main water supply to the entire building as soon as you suspect a pipe has frozen. This way there won’t be any potential flooding issues if your pipe cracks or bursts.

After shutting the water off, a plumber will then locate the frozen pipe and begin thawing it out. Depending on the location of the pipe, this can be done with an electric heating pad, a hairdryer or possibly a space heater. It is important to never apply too much heat or attempt to thaw the pipe out too quickly because this could damage it. Depending on how it is done and the amount of ice in your plumbing, thawing out the pipe could take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

Repairing Any Damage

Once the pipe is fully thawed out, the plumber will then need to inspect the affected section to make sure that there is no damage. They will then turn the water back on and check for any leaks. If the pipe ruptures or is otherwise damaged, it will be necessary to turn the water back off and then replace the damaged section. You will be without water until the job is complete, but it typically shouldn’t take more than a few hours. If your pipe section that freezes is in an uninsulated location, your plumber may wish to insulate or relocate this section of pipe.

How to Prevent Your Pipes From Freezing

Preventing your outdoor plumbing fixtures from freezing is quite easy and straightforward. Start with hose bibs and outdoor plumbing, as this is the most likely type of plumbing to freeze. After disconnecting any hoses, you will want to go inside and close the valve that controls each outdoor fixture. Next, go back outside and turn each of the fixtures on to drain any residual water. This is important as any water remaining within the pipe inside your home could still freeze and flood your basement. Lastly, place insulating covers over all hose bibs for an added layer of protection. Do not plan to use them again until after the freezing weather has passed.

If your home has a sprinkler system, you will also need to make sure that you shut the water off to this system before the first frost. You may need to hire someone to blow your sprinklers out. This is done by using a powerful generator to force air through all of the sprinkler lines and blow any remaining water out of the sprinkler heads.

Once you have tackled your outdoor plumbing, it’s time to look at the pipes inside your house. The ones you will want to be most concerned about are the pipes inside an uninsulated, unheated basement or crawlspace. These pipes need to be fully wrapped with insulation with no gaps.

It will help both your plumbing and your home’s HVAC efficiency to make sure that there are no gaps in the exterior of your building that could allow cold air to penetrate inside. This means making sure that your crawlspace and foundation are well sealed.

During the winter, you should also make sure that you always leave your heating system on and the thermostat set no lower than 55 degrees. Even if the rest of your home is 40 degrees, the temperature inside your walls or crawlspace can often drop well below freezing due to air leaks.

If there is a section of pipe that freezes every season, consider having a plumbing inspection to determine its location. The plumber may suggest rerouting a section of pipe through a warmer part of your house. Alternatively, you may wish to insulate or provide heat to the area around the section of pipes that freeze.

Additional Steps to Protect Against Extreme Cold

While the above steps should generally be sufficient for most winter days, you should take extra precautions during an extreme cold snap. If the weather is predicted to drop to 0 degrees or below, you may want to make sure you keep your thermostat turned up higher.

Opening the doors to the cabinets underneath all of your sinks can also help to prevent the pipes beneath your kitchen from freezing. This works to allow hot air to circulate underneath the sink and around the pipes so that they stay warmer.

It is also a good idea to keep some of your faucets slightly open during a cold snap so that there is a drip or trickle of water running. If the water inside of the pipes freezes, open fixtures offer a way for the water that has been displaced by ice to leave the pipes without cracking them.

Expert Plumbing and Water Quality Services

If you suspect that one of your pipes is frozen, the professional team at Cooper’s Water can thaw your pipes and make sure your plumbing system works properly again. We specialize in leak detection and plumbing repairs. We also work on all types of plumbing fixtures including water heaters, garbage disposals, water softeners, hose bibs and sump pumps. We offer drain cleaning services as well as water softener rentals, water softener salt deliveries and water deliveries. In addition, we are experts in water quality. We install and service a range of different water filtration systems, including reverse osmosis, iron filtration and well water filtration systems. To schedule any type of plumbing service in the Indianapolis area, contact the experts at Cooper’s Water today.

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