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Protect Pipes in Winter Weather

Houston TX residents recently found themselves caught in a blast of winter weather usually reserved for areas much farther north. Some of the hardest hit will be those who neglected to protect their plumbing, pipes and water lines. Freezing is a particular problem where pipes run through uninsulated or under-insulated attics, crawl spaces, garages or kitchen cabinets. Other trouble spots include outdoor hose bibs, sprinkler systems and swimming pools supply lines. But it’s not to late to avoid or at least minimize the damage.

How to protect pipes during winter

If possible, wrap exposed pipes with insulated sleeves, tape or newspaper. Even something as simple as keeping your garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage can prevent frozen pipes. In addition, keep kitchen and bathroom cabinets open to allow warm inside air to flow around the pipes. (Be sure to move harmful cleaners or chemicals out of reach of children.) Allowing cold water to drip from faucets helps prevent freezing because the temperature of the running water is warmer than 32 degrees.

During freezing weather, keep your thermostat level constant both day and night. Heating bills may temporarily rise, but you save the cost of extensive plumbing repairs. Set the heat no lower than 55 degrees in homes that will be unoccupied for an extended period during cold weather.

Even after taking these cold-weather precautions, if you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, you may have a frozen pipe that is in danger of bursting. Thaw the pipe immediately, if possible, or call a local Houston TX plumber to help. The first step when thawing a pipe, according to Michigan State University Extension, is to turn off the main water supply. Then open all the taps in the house.

No water running anywhere in your Houston home means a pipe near the water meter may be frozen. If water runs in only one part of the house, a pipe along an outside wall or un-insulated crawl space is probably frozen. When the frozen pipe is found, open the affected faucet all the way, and turn on all the hot water faucets in the house. Water will flow out of the affected faucet when the pipe thaws. Once the plumbing is thawed, turn all faucets back to a trickle. Do not turn off the faucet nearest the freeze until water flows easily.

Use a hair dryer, heat lamp, household iron, electric heating cable, heating pad, or hot wet towels to gradually warm pipes. Heating pipes too quickly can cause them to explode. Be sure to warm pipes starting nearest the open faucet, moving toward the frozen area. This prevents a buildup of trapped steam, which might burst the pipe. Houston plumbers warn: do not use kerosene or propane heaters, charcoal stoves, propane torches or direct contact with boiling water to thaw a frozen pipe. Open flames can be a serious fire danger, and you may risk exposure to lethal carbon monoxide. Never use un-grounded electrical appliances outdoors or near grounded water pipes.

If you can’t find the frozen area, the pipe is inaccessible or you suspect a broken pipe, call our experienced Houston-area plumbers. If one pipe freezes, more pipes may freeze or burst. Contact our Houston service professionals by phone or online, 24/7, to assess the damage.