Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes

How to Unthaw Frozen Pipes

As a general rule, you want to keep plumbers out of your home. This isn’t to suggest that plumbers are unpleasant people. On the contrary, we’re actually quite an affable bunch! But our work is admittedly expensive compared to that of other contractors, and we fully agree that the best place for your money is inside your wallet.

Case in point: The average cost of plumbing repair and installation ranges between around $350 and $2,000, and the price for replacing an entire home’s plumbing usually hovers around $7,500. Nearly 30% of home insurance claims in 2019 were attributable to frozen pipes and water damage alone!

Frozen pipes are one of the most common causes of plumbing problems. Keeping the plumber out of your home thus requires preventing pipes from freezing – or thawing them, in the hope that freezing water hasn’t inflicted damage to the pipes already. Here are the best ways to go about preventing and thawing frozen pipes!

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

Keep the Heat On

We don’t have to spend too much time emphasizing the importance of heating your home when you live in the Midwest. You may be tempted to save money on your heating bill by cranking down the thermostat when you step out – but don’t overdo it! It is best to never set the thermostat lower than 50° if you want to avoid frozen pipes, yet many other authorities advise keeping it no lower than 55°.

Keep the Garage Door Closed

You may not have exposed pipes in your garage, but there are likely several water lines concealed just behind its walls. Keep arctic chills away from your sensitive pipes by keeping the garage door closed whenever possible!

Insulate Exposed Pipes

The U.S. Department of Energy notes that insulating your hot water pipes can raise your water temperature by up to 4° – definitely a perk during those cold winter days when the only thing keeping you going is the thought of the hot shower you’re going to enjoy upon homecoming. But sometimes insulation is just enough to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting during exceptionally frigid days (and we sure get enough of those in South Dakota, where the lowest temperature ever recorded was a miserable -58°).

Open Cabinets and Closets During Especially Cold Days

Opening the cabinets beneath your sinks will let heat access the plumbing within, which may be all it takes to prevent a frozen pipe. If it’s especially cold outside, you may even place an incandescent lamp beside a sink’s plumbing to help keep it toastier.

But don’t neglect your closets! Pipes may very well be placed just behind your closets’ walls, and you want your home’s heat to reach them as well.

Seal Off Drafts

Sealing off cracks and seams in your home’s exterior isn’t just an incredibly cost-effective way of reducing your heating bill. It will also ward off the kinds of drafts that may ultimately freeze and burst pipes. Pay special attention to areas surrounding windows and doors as you make your rounds with a caulk gun, but don’t forget to inspect all the other areas which may pose air sealing problems, including:

  • Ducts

  • Porch roof

  • Crawl space

  • Fireplace wall

  • Recessed lighting

  • Attic & attic access

  • Walls adjacent to the garage

  • Dropped ceilings & soffits

  • Common walls in townhomes

  • Staircase framing alongside exterior walls

Protect Your Outdoor Plumbing

Many folks omit to prepare their outdoor plumbing for frigid temperatures – but your hose faucets pose a threat of burst pipes, too! Make all necessary precautions during autumn including turning off your outdoor water supply valve, detaching all hoses, turning all the faucets on until they have drained completely as possible and then turning them back off again, and installing insulation covers (which are very inexpensive) over your faucets.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

Let Water Drip from Your Faucets

You don’t have to incur a legendary water bill by leaving your faucets on full tilt during the wintertime. Letting your faucets gently drip cold or room temperature water can help to prevent pipes from freezing, as well as thaw them out before any permanent damage is done.

But this is important: If you suspect that a frozen pipe has also burst, turn off your main water valve before taking any steps to thaw it. The ice within a pipe may be plugging up any potential leaks, which means water damage may ensue once it has melted!

Apply Heat Externally

This is the most intuitive way to thaw out anything, frozen pipes included. Direct a space heater or heat lamp at the affected plumbing and the problem will eventually resolve itself. Heat tape, which is essentially a supple heating element encapsulated within an insulating material, is also extremely effective at thawing pipes. If it’s an emergency and no better alternative is available, you can also make do with a hairdryer!

Despite your best efforts, sometimes frozen pipes are simply unavoidable. If the pipes in your home or place of business have frozen or otherwise become damaged, then we welcome you to reach out to PrairieSons today! We serve homeowners and business owners throughout the greater Sioux Falls area, and we do everything within our power to keep our services affordable to our clients.