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8 Tips for Preventing Frozen Pipes and What to Do If Your Pipes Freeze

By: Melissa Hamer-Jackson

Frozen pipes can be a real hassle – especially if they burst! Luckily, there are steps you can take to help prevent frozen pipes in your home. Unfortunately, in cold climates (like Alberta), it’s not always possible to keep pipes from freezing. Therefore, you’ll want to know what to look for and how to thaw your pipes if they freeze. To help you prevent frozen pipes, our expert plumbers are here with some tips.

Here’s what you need to know about frozen pipes and how to prevent your pipes from freezing.

Tips for Preventing Frozen Pipes
Signs Your Pipes Are Frozen
What happens if your pipes freeze?
What to Do If Your Pipes Are Frozen

8 Tips for Preventing Frozen Pipes

There are several steps you can take to prevent the pipes in your home from freezing. Once the temperature outside reaches 0°C or below, you’ll want to start paying close attention and taking these precautions. These steps could help you avoid major (and costly) damage to your home.

Here are 8 tips for preventing frozen pipes.

1. Prevent frozen pipes by keeping them warm.

Sink with open cabinets to prevent pipes from freezing in Alberta

The best way to prevent frozen pipes is to keep them from getting too cold. For instance, with indoor pipes located inside cabinets and cupboards, you can do this by keeping the cabinet doors slightly open. This will allow the warm air in your home to help keep the pipes warm. For pipes located in your garage, be sure to keep the garage door closed (as much as possible). This will help protect these pipes from the cold air coming in from outside.

2. Drain the pipes that are likely to freeze.

Identity which pipes on your property are most likely to freeze and drain the water from them in the fall. For example, drain sprinkler and swimming pool lines every year before the temperatures plummet.

3. Put away outdoor hoses and shutoff supply valves.

If you have any outdoor hoses in your yard, be sure to drain, disconnect and store them inside for the winter. It’s also important to shut off the indoor supply valves to prevent water from flowing to outdoor hose bibbs.

4. Keep your taps open.

If we are experiencing a particularly cold winter in Edmonton, consider keeping your faucets turned on – just a little bit. This might sound questionable but allowing your faucets to drip (even just a little bit) will keep the water in the pipes flowing. The constant movement of the water will help to prevent your pipes from freezing.

5. Keep your thermostat at a consistent temperature. 

By keeping your home warm, you are also keeping your pipes warm. It’s particularly important that you don’t completely turn off your HVAC system when you aren’t home or when you go on vacation. Why? If you allow the interior of your home to reach freezing temperatures, your pipes are at risk of freezing – and no one wants to come home to frozen pipes!

6. Ensure all the pipes in your home are properly insulated. 

insulated pipes ⋆ ProSolutions Inc

The most vulnerable pipes in your home (e.g. those in the basement, crawlspaces and other unheated areas) should be insulted with sleeve-style pipe insulation to prevent them from freezing. Ensuring that all the doors, windows and walls in your home are properly sealed and insulated can also help. This will prevent heat from escaping and cold drafts from coming in.

7. Have your heating and plumbing system serviced each year. 

A professional heating and plumbing company will ensure everything is in good working condition and fix any small problems. This will prevent larger issues and more costly repairs, like frozen and burst pipes.

8. Install a hot water circulating pump to help prevent frozen pipes. 

Hot water circulating pumps evaluate the temperature of your pipes. If they sense that the pipes are too cold, they’ll automatically circulate warm water through the pipes to prevent freezing.

Another important step you should take (if you haven’t already), is to identify where the plumbing and shutoff valves are located in your home. You will likely find the main water shutoff in your garage, laundry room, mechanical room or basement. These details are important to know so that you can shut off the water supply in the case of a burst pipe or another plumbing emergency.

Please note: if you have a burst pipe in your home, it’s important to call a local plumber immediately. Professional plumbers, like those at ProSolutions, can conduct an emergency burst pipe repair to prevent further damage.

While we all hope that things like this never happen, it’s not always possible to prevent a disaster. So, to help you identify frozen pipes as quickly as possible, let’s take a look at what you can expect if your pipes do freeze.

Signs Your Pipes Are Frozen

Frozen pipe with ice forming

Think your pipes might be frozen? There are some tell-tale signs that you can keep an eye out for. The earlier you catch the problem, the better off you’ll be.

Here are the most common signs your pipes are frozen:

  • No water comes out of the faucet when you turn it on (or just a trickle) – this could also be due to a leak or because your water is turned off. Check on those causes before concluding that you have frozen pipes on your hands. If you’re unsure what the issue is, call your local plumber.

  • Your pipes have frost on them – if you see frost on the outside of a pipe, chances are it’s frozen.

  • There’s a strong smell coming from your drain or faucet – if a portion of a pipe is frozen, you may experience a strange smell. This is because any odour in the pipe is forced back out into your bathroom or kitchen. Keep in mind, this can also be the result of a different type of blockage. However, if the temperatures outside are low, frozen pipes are likely the problem.

  • You see signs of water damage – frozen pipes sometimes burst. If this happens, water will leak into your home. As a result, you may notice water damage or flooding. However, small leaks and slight water damage can be difficult to spot. Here are some signs to look out for:

    • Musty odours
    • Peeling wallpaper
    • Mold
    • The sound of running water
    • Sagging walls and ceilings (this is a sign of structural damage)

If you notice any of the warning signs above, you’ll want to take immediate action – especially if you see structural damage. To help prevent further issues, get in touch with a local Edmonton plumbing services company as soon as possible.

What happens if your pipes freeze?

Frozen pipe burst in basement of Edmonton home

If your pipes freeze, the worst-case scenario is that they burst. Frozen pipes don’t always burst – sometimes you will just experience low (or no) water pressure, strange smells, etc. However, if a pipe does burst, water will leak into your home. This can cause major damage and the need for expensive repairs. 

What should you do if your pipes burst? First things first, be sure to shut off the water supply immediately. The less water that leaks into your walls, ceilings and floors, the better. Next, you’ll want to call a local plumber for emergency plumbing services. In fact, if you suspect your pipes are frozen (even if they haven’t burst), calling a local plumber is a good idea. A plumber will be able to help you assess the situation and thaw any frozen pipes. 

It’s extremely important that you call an Edmonton plumbing company, like ProSolutions, for assistance if you aren’t sure how to safely thaw frozen pipes or if you don’t know where the pipes are located and how to access them.

What to Do If You Have Frozen Pipes

If your pipes are frozen, they’ll need to be thawed. You might be wondering – will frozen pipes thaw on their own? The answer is – yes, technically. But, if your pipes are frozen, you’ll want to attend to them immediately. Waiting for them to thaw on their own can result in further risk and damage, including burst pipes.

Please note: attempting to thaw frozen pipes yourself can be dangerous – especially if you don’t know how to do it correctly. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you call a trusted plumber to help with the job.

ProSolutions plumber fixing frozen pipes in Edmonton home

If you believe you are experienced enough to thaw frozen pipes on your own, here’s what you’ll need to do:

1. Locate the frozen pipes.

Do this by following the pipe from the affected faucet (i.e. where the water flow is restricted). Feel along the pipe, every few feet, to determine where the cold, frozen spots are located.

2. Shut off the water supply.

You can turn off the water supply to the affected faucet only. However, to make it easier, simply turn off the main water supply to restrict all areas of the house.

3. Open all the faucets.

Opening all the faucets in your home, including sinks, showers and bathtubs, will allow any remaining water to drain. Be sure to leave the affected faucet open. This will allow any water and steam created during the thawing process to escape.

4. Apply heat to the frozen pipes.

Use a heating pad, hairdryer or another portable heating device to heat the frozen section of the pipe. Before using any heating device, be sure that the area is clear of any flammable materials. If you do not have access to any of the options above, hot towels can also do the trick.

Please remember: never use any device with an open flame to warm the pipe. In addition, do not leave any heating devices unattended.

5. Turn the water supply back on and check the affected faucet.

Check the water pressure coming from the affected faucet to see if you have successfully thawed the pipe. Once the water pressure is back to normal, the pipe should be clear. Now, check the rest of the faucets to make sure you don’t have any other frozen pipes.

Important: once you turn the main water supply back on, keep a lookout for leaks. Call your local plumber immediately if you notice any leaks. 

Call ProSolutions for All Your Plumbing Needs

Whether you’re trying to prevent frozen pipes through regular plumbing maintenance or you need emergency plumbing services, ProSolutions is there. Our full range of plumbing services offer everything you need to keep your plumbing safe and functioning properly.

Next time your plumbing needs some TLC, give us a call – 780-453-6640.

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