How to Prevent and Thaw Frozen Pipes Inside and Outside of the Home

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

Living in Alberta, even for a short time, you come to realize that our winters are very unpredictable! One day, it’s sunny and calm, and your neighbours are walking their dogs in shorts. The next day, the temperature drops 20 or 30 degrees, snow or freezing rain starts to fall, and you’re stuck inside for an undetermined amount of time.

In circumstances like this, it’s a good idea to prepare your home against weather-related problems that can happen, like frozen pipes, which could lead to burst pipes and flooding. This article will help you prevent frozen pipes, thaw pipes that are frozen, and tell you what to do if your pipes burst.

First and foremost, you’ll need to know where your exposed pipes are located. If you haven’t already, you should take stock of your house and identify any areas where pipes are exposed to the cold. Areas could include the following:

  • Unheated basements
  • Poorly insulated walls (especially outside walls)
  • Near windows or cold air vents
  • Any pipes that are outdoors (like your garden hose faucets)

You’ll need to learn where your water valves are. This is great information to have on hand in any situation, but it’s also essential in an emergency situation. Figure out where your valves are and how to turn them on and off.

After having identified potentially problematic areas, here are some preventive steps you can take against frozen pipes, both inside and outside your home:

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes Inside Your Home

  1. If you have discovered uninsulated, or poorly insulated pipes, wrap them in insulation or heating tape, like this product.
  2. Ensure your windows are weather-sealed, so that pipes that are close by are not exposed to cold air. An added benefit to this is you will save on heating costs and your house will be less chilly in the winter months. Here are some other ways to save money on your utilities.
  3. Make sure that your walls, especially in the basement and crawl spaces, are also well insulated. Add more insulation if necessary.
  4. This may seem like a no-brainer in the winter, but make sure all your windows are closed and cover all open-air vents. Drafts can cause pipes to freeze too!
  5. When the weather is especially cold, turn the heat on in your basement.

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes Outside Your Home

  1. Always remove your garden hose(s) from the faucet when the weather starts to get cold. Hoses left hooked to the faucet can cause a pipe burst and other unfortunate issues.
  2. Since you never know how cold it’s going to get, it’s also a good idea to install an outdoor faucet cover.

You can watch the video below to learn more about covering your outdoor faucets to prevent freezing!

How to Prepare Your Pipes Before You Leave on Vacation

For lots of Albertans, winter means warm destination vacations or leaving home to spend time with extended family. Before you go, you should take a few minutes to do the following:

  • Turn off the water supply to your washing machine
  • Keep the bedroom, basement, bathroom, and even cabinet doors open so that warm air can circulate throughout your house.
  • Set your thermostat to 20 degrees and make sure the batteries are fresh!

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

Unfortunately, pipes do sometimes freeze up. When water in the pipe freezes, it expands and puts pressure on the pipe, causing it to crack, break, or come loose from its connections. If you notice the crack before water starts leaking and causing damage (or all-out bursting), you can thaw the pipe yourself.

Start by opening the water valve and turning the faucet on. Next, remove the faucet’s aerator (the screen at the opening) in case any debris or chunks of ice come out.

Begin with the part closest to the faucet and use one of the following methods to thaw the frozen water:

  • Take a towel and soak it with hot water. Wrap the towel around the cold sections of the pipe. Continue soaking the towels in hot water as they cool off until you’re finished.
  • Use a hair dryer to thaw the frozen section. *Be careful when using any sort of electrical equipment around water to avoid getting electrocuted.

Other resources say that another option is using a propane torch, but we do not recommend this. Any type of open flame inside a house is a potential fire hazard. Not only that, but you could damage the pipes!

frozen pipes

What to do When a Pipe Bursts

Hopefully this doesn’t happen. But if it does, stay calm and do the following:

  • Locate and shut off the main water valve. This isn’t always the case, but if the pipe bursts in a hot water pipe, be sure to shut off the valve on the water heater.
  • Shut off your central heating.
  • After your water is shut off, turn on all your taps to drain the water out of your pipes.
  • If it’s manageable, try to collect leaking water in a bucket to minimize water damage.

The next thing you need to do is call us! We are available to do repairs and handle emergencies like these 24/7. Keep our number close by and we will be there to help as soon as possible. 1-587-803-1030

Help your friends out by sharing this article. They will be grateful if they ever have to deal with frozen pipes, and you might even help them prevent a disaster!

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