Submitted by Jennifer Trepal, City of Mason
During the last cold spell, the City of Mason received a dozen or more reports of water lines freezing in residential and business buildings. With sub-zero temperatures in the forecast, Mason Fire Department offers these tips to keep your pipes from freezing and what to do if they do freeze.
To prevent freezing at outdoor hose bibs, close the inside valves that supply water to them and then open the outside valves. That will allow any remaining water to drain if it’s not already frozen. Keep the valve open so any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break. (Remember to close the valve before you turn the water on in the spring.)
Be sure you know where the main water shutoff is in your home in case you need to access it quickly. Look around your home for any unheated areas that have water lines in them. Check the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and inside kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated. Pipe sleeves, heat tape, heat cable, or other insulating products can be installed on the pipes to help prevent freezing. You can even use newspaper. As little as one quarter inch of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that don’t have frequent or prolonged temperatures below 32 degrees F. If basement and crawl space walls are insulated, make sure any water lines are on the warmer side of the insulation.
Keep your garage door closed if there are water supply lines in or adjacent to it. Open your kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer room air to keep the plumbing warm. If you do this, remove harmful cleaners and chemicals and move them out of the reach of children. Letting the cold water trickle from the faucet will help prevent freezing. Keep your thermostat set to the same temperature both day and night. Otherwise, the dip in temperature may be just enough to allow your pipes to freeze during the night.
What if you get up in the morning and turn the faucet on and nothing comes out? It could be the pipe is frozen, especially if the faucet is on an outside wall. Freezing may also occur where the water service enters your home through the foundation. Open an interior faucet to see whether the outage is isolated to the one faucet.
If you think the pipe is frozen, keep the faucet open. Apply heat to the section of pipe that is frozen by using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (keep it away from flammable materials), or by wrapping the pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do NOT use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
Keep applying heat until full water pressure is restored. Once water begins to flow, it will help melt the ice in the pipe if you’ve kept the faucet open. Check all the other faucets in the house to see if they need thawing as well.
If a pipe has already burst, turn off the water supply to your home and call a licensed plumber for repairs. Also call a plumber if you can’t locate the frozen area or can’t get to it, or if you can’t get the pipe thawed.
“Frozen pipes can be a serious issue and costly to repair,” said Mason Fire Chief John Moore. He advises everyone to take precautions in their homes and to add extra layers and minimize their time outdoors if they must go out in frigid conditions.