Charlottesville Fire Department Issues Tips to Reduce Frozen Pipes

Posted: Updated:

Charlottesville Fire Department Press Release:

Charlottesville, VA – As frigid temperatures has reached our region, frozen pipes have become a real concern for property owners. Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on pipes causing them to break. Frozen pipes are one of the biggest risks of property damage when the temperature drops.

Pipes that freeze most frequently are:

  • Pipes that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs and water sprinkler lines.
  • Water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages, or inside cabinets.
  • Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation.

How to protect pipes from freezing:

  • Remove, drain and store hoses used outdoors. Close valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bib to allow water to drain and allow any remaining water in the pipe to expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
  • Check around the home and locate any water supply lines in unheated areas. Look in the garage, kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  • Consider installing products made to insulate water pipes like a “pipe sleeve” or installing UL listed “heat tape”, “heat cable”, or similar materials on exposed water lines.

How to prevent frozen pipes:

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Remove harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children.
  • Let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through pipes helps prevent them from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature during the day and at night. Leave the heat on in your home and set to a temperature no lower than 55°F.

How to thaw frozen pipes:

  • If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt the ice inside the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe
    • an electric hair dryer (never use electrical appliances while standing in water)
    • a portable space heater (keep a 36” clearance away from all flammable materials)
  • Never use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove or any other open flame device to thaw a frozen pipe.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you’re unable to locate the frozen area or if you are unable to thaw the pipes call a licensed plumber.
  • IF a water pipe bursts, turn off the water at the main shut off valve (usually at the water meter or where the main water line enters the home). Leave the faucet(s) open until repairs can be completed.