The winters in Denver, Colorado, can be quite cold. If your home’s plumbing system is not properly protected, your pipes might freeze. If your pipes freeze, is there anything you can do, or should you call for professional help? Find the answer to that question here.
Why Pipes Freeze During Winter
Cold weather causes pipes to freeze, expanding the water in the pipe and potentially leading to pipe ruptures due to the extra pressure. The rupture typically occurs not where the ice is but somewhere further down the pipe between the ice and the faucet.
Uninsulated exposed pipes face the highest risk of freezing, especially when the temperature drops well below zero. Cold air will infiltrate unheated spaces through small cracks or holes in the home’s facade for phone lines or cable lines.
Pipes in basements, attics, and garages are more susceptible to ice blockages. Water supply pipes, typically one inch in diameter, are more likely to freeze than drainpipes. Drainpipes, with a minimum diameter of 1 ½ inches, carry water but do not hold water and are not pressurized. So even if a small amount of water in the pipe does freeze, it will not burst.
How Long Does It Take a Frozen Pipe to Thaw?
It typically takes between 30 and 40 minutes for a pipe to thaw using a heat source on the pipe. If the pipes are enclosed, it may take longer for the heat to penetrate the insulation. If a frozen pipe is underground, you can unfreeze it by running warm water. However, when a frozen pipe is leading to your home, as in the case of a water line, it can be a time-consuming and labor-intensive task.
Step to Prevent Frozen Pipes
Before winter sets in, drain the water from sprinkler supply lines, swimming pools, and other water lines following the manufacturer’s or installer’s direction. Avoid using antifreeze in these lines, as it is detrimental to the environment, poses risks to wildlife, pets, and humans, and can harm your landscaping.
Open the outside hose bibs to facilitate water drainage. Remove and drain water from any hoses stored outdoors, leaving the outside valve open to allow the remaining water in the pipe to expand without causing a pipe break.
Insulate basement crawl spaces and attics to safeguard water pipes, maintaining higher temperatures in these areas.
Identify areas around the home where water supply lines are located in unheated spaces, paying special attention to the garage and underneath the bathroom and kitchen cabinets.
Ensure insulation for cold and hot water pipes, utilizing a pipe sleeve or installing a UL-listed heat tape or cable. If insulation is inadequate, consider relocating exposed pipes to an area that provides increased protection from freezing.
For garages with water supply lines, keep the garage door closed. If you will be away from home and expect temperatures below zero, open bathroom and kitchen cabinet doors to allow warmer air from the home to circulate the plumbing.
During extremely cold temperatures, let the water drip from the faucet connected to exposed pipes. Allowing a trickle of water to run through the pipe prevents freezing.
In colder seasons, consistently set the temperature in your home during the day and night. While this may result in a slightly higher heating bill, it is a minimal expense compared to the cost of a ruptured pipe. If away, ensure the home temperature is set no lower than 55°F.
Will Frozen Pipes Thaw on Their Own?
Yes. However, it’s risky to sit around and wait for your pipes to thaw on their own. If you wait too long, the expanding water will lead to increased pressure in your pipes, eventually rupturing them.
If your pipes freeze, your first call should be to a professional plumber who can help. There are some strategies that a homeowner can apply to help thaw a pipe if it is in a convenient and easily accessible location. However, many homeowners inadvertently damage their water pipes when attempting to thaw them.
While the ice in your pipes thaws, it creates water that needs to go somewhere. Turning on your tap gives that water and any potential steam a place to be released.
How to Thaw a Frozen Pipe
Apply a moderate amount of warmth to the frozen pipe, using caution to ensure only a moderate level of heat is employed. Some individuals find success using a hairdryer or an electric heating pad to warm the frozen pipe.
Never use a blowtorch or a device with an open flame. Since frozen pipes are often in enclosed spaces, using an open flame can be risky. Avoid using a space heater, as leaving it unsupervised can lead to fires.
Do not attempt to fix an exterior frozen wall pipe on your own. This task should be left to a professional plumber. Even if you can identify the exterior wall pipe causing the freeze, contacting a professional plumber or contractor is advisable. Repairing exterior wall pipes typically involves complex tasks, such as cutting holes in the wall, and has the potential to damage the structural integrity of the home if the pipe bursts.
Find the Frozen Pipe
There are several ways to do this. The most obvious way is to open the different taps or appliances, and if the pipe that services it is frozen, no water will come out. If the pipe has been frozen for some time, you might even see ice coming out of the spigot where the dripping water has frozen.
A frozen pipe is typically in the coolest part of the house. This includes an exterior wall with limited sun exposure. It can also be under a cabinet or in the crawl space. You might feel that the pipe is very cold or see frost growing on the pipe.
If one pipe is frozen, other pipes are likely frozen. Check different appliances and taps, including your washing machine, dishwasher, etc., to ensure that the water is running there.
Open the Faucet
Once you’ve found the frozen pipe, open the faucet that leads from the frozen pipe. Open both the cold and hot taps. This will relieve the pressure in the system. Once the pipe thaws, the melted water will be able to exit, making the thawing process faster.
Carefully Apply Heat
If the frozen pipe is indoors, turn up the heat in the room where the frozen pipe is located. This will assist in warming the pipe.
Start applying heat closest to the faucet, being aware that if water flows to the property’s interior, it needs to be able to travel somewhere. While a person can thaw the pipes in their home on their own, it is typically better to seek the assistance of a plumber, as they can better find the source of the frozen pipe and ensure that the pipe is thawed with minimal damage to your home.
Working With the Top-Rated Plumber in Denver, Colorado
When you need a plumber, High 5 Plumbing is the perfect company to call. We are committed to our customers and offer a level of communication that sets us apart. We are proud recipients of the Angie 2021 Super Service Award. We won the Small Business of the Year Award in 2022 and are ranked among America’s fastest-growing private companies.
Our services include the installation of water heaters, tankless water heaters, and general plumbing repair. We offer plumbing maintenance, gas plumbing, drain cleaning, hydro jetting, and video inspections. Contact High 5 Plumbing today and see for yourself why our customers love what we do.