Ways You Can Prevent Frozen Indoor Pipes in Indiana and Steps to Thaw Frozen Pipes if They Occur

Winter’s freezing temperatures create a risk of frozen pipes across Central Indiana. Inside pipes throughout the entire house are vulnerable, but exposed pipes in unheated crawl spaces, attics, or garages and those installed along exterior walls are most likely to have pipes freeze. Outside the house, water supply pipes, water sprinkler lines, outdoor hose bibs, and swimming pool supply lines are commonly impacted by freezing.

Indiana homeowners should take steps to prevent frozen pipes as major damage can result from this seasonal problem affecting plumbing pipes. As water freezes inside metal or plastic pipes, water expands as ice and blocks the pipe. Moving water is blocked by the ice and cannot run out of the pipe, which causes tremendous pressure to build inside the frozen pipe that eventually causes a burst pipe. When a pipe bursts, cold water can leak at an alarming rate – it is critical to drain water right away, as water remaining after a pipe has failed can ruin building materials and possessions. The damage to water pipes can also be an issue, creating the need to repair or replace one pipe or multiple pipes.

Mr. Plumber helps Central Indiana homeowners stop pipes from freezing with professional guidance. Preventative measures can be taken and security practices used when risky outdoor conditions are forecasted to help prevent pipes from freezing. If freezing pipes do happen, we explain the thawing process that will help you quickly thaw frozen pipes and minimize damage to your plumbing and home. Learn the tools that will help you thaw pipes safely and the types of open flame device to avoid so you do not damage your pipes or cause a fire by sparking flammable materials.

Home Projects That Will Help You Avoid Frozen Pipes

The water pipes inside your home that are most likely to freeze this winter are those running along unheated exterior walls as well as pipes exposed in areas of the house like your crawl space, garage, attic, or unfinished basement. Making some improvements in these areas can help you stop pipes from freezing when outdoor temperatures fall below freezing.

  • Pipe sleeves or pipe insulation are products that look similar to swimming pool noodles and can be applied directly to water pipes. They are made from fiberglass, foam, and other materials which help the pipe keep its warmth and block out chilly air from the surrounding space. These products are affordable, easy to find at local home improvement stores, and can be installed quickly as a DIY project for many handy homeowners.

  • Heat tape and heat cable are also products that are installed directly around a pipe to help stop freezing pipes. These tools use built-in thermostats to sense when the area around the pipe reaches the same temperature the thermostat is set to – the thermostat activates the heat cable or heat table, causing electric heating elements to generate heat and warm the surface of the pipe to help prevent frozen water pipes when temperatures are low.

  • Areas where exposed pipes run often are unheated or lack enough insulation to keep them warm. Adding more insulation to crawl spaces, garages, basements, or attics where pipes run and are exposed to open air will help keep the space filled with warmer air, as the insulation will help the home hold heat in and keep out cold, outdoor air.

  • Air sealing for these areas is also helpful to reduce the risk of frozen pipes for the same reason. Use silicone or spray foam caulking to close cracks, holes, and other penetrations in an exterior wall that could allow heat to escape an area as well as let cool air in.

  • Pressure relief valves can be installed along water pipes to reduce the risk of damage in the event of freezing pipes. This type of valve will release excess pressure and help prevent the pipe from bursting due to high water pressure inside. This is a project that can be completed by your trusted local plumber.

How to Avoid a Frozen Pipe When Outdoor Temperatures Fall

Many people assume frozen pipes become a possibility as soon as the outside temperature hits a freezing 32 degrees, but this isn’t typically the case. The risk of a frozen pipe generally starts once outdoor temperatures fall to about 20 degrees or less and stay that way for six hours or longer. Exposed pipes in unheated or under-insulated areas as well as those running through exterior walls are more susceptible to freezing than indoor pipes closer to the center of the home as these areas typically don’t stay as warm as those closer to the heart of the house.

If the forecast shows that outdoor conditions will stay at or below 20 degrees for a period of six hours or even longer, there are safety practices you can use to protect against the possibility of frozen water pipes in your home.

  • Allow cabinet doors to remain open below sinks in the home, and certainly on those installed along the outer wall of the house. With cabinet doors open, warm air from the home’s main living areas can move into the space and continue to circulate, raising the temperature of exposed water pipes and those installed within the wall behind the cabinets.

  • If pipes run through your garage, keep garage doors closed as much as possible – especially the overhead door. Limit the use of overhead garage doors as much as you can and don’t leave them open for lengthy periods – pull your vehicle out of the garage while you allow it to warm up and don’t leave the door open while performing outdoor chores or activities. This will help the garage keep its heat and limit a huge influx of outdoor cold air.

  • Leave each faucet open to allow a steady trickle of water escaping at all times. Doing so will keep a moving water supply within your water pipes which helps prevent freezing.

  • Do not set back your home’s thermostat to save on heating when you expect freezing outdoor conditions. Don’t lower your thermostat beyond 55 degrees in the winter, but maintaining temperatures between 60 to 68 degrees can help you reduce the possibility of a frozen pipe. Turn up the thermostat a few degrees higher whenever frigid outdoor temperatures are expected to generate warmer air indoors that will help protect your pipes from freezing.

Instructions to Thaw a Frozen Pipe on Exterior Walls or Exposed Pipes

Despite your best efforts to prevent frozen pipes, it isn’t always possible to stop pipes from freezing. In the event frozen pipes do occur in your Central Indiana home, you need to know how to quickly thaw the frozen area in order to reduce the risk of damage from a frozen pipe.

Whenever the outdoor conditions are right to create the risk of freezing pipes, watch for the warning signs so you can quickly detect a frozen pipe and start the process to thaw a frozen pipe as soon as possible. The most common symptom of frozen pipes is poor water pressure from faucets and fixtures served by the frozen water supply line. If the pipe has fully frozen, you’ll notice that the water supply is non-existent when you turn on a tap, as ice has completely blocked the pipe. If you are able to visually inspect pipes, you may also see frost or condensation on the surface of the pipe at the frozen area. Any signs of a leak, such as damp spots on the wall or water where it shouldn’t be are warning signs of a leak, possibly caused by freezing and even a burst in the pipe. Shut off water at the home’s main shutoff valve to prevent further leaking and water damage until repairs can be performed.

Before you start thawing frozen pipes, make sure to leave the faucet open to any taps served by the frozen water pipes. Next, it’s time to apply heat and melt ice in the frozen area.

  • Apply heat directly on the frozen area. Wrap an electric heating pad along the spot or use towels soaked in hot water to warm the area. Add more hot water as needed. A hair dryer can also be used to heat the area, just make sure to hold the hair dryer a few inches away from the pipe to prevent damage.

  • Increasing heat within the space surrounding the frozen pipes will thaw them faster. Set up a portable space heater in the area. Only use electric space heaters, not a propane heater, propane torch, charcoal stove, or other open flame device as this type of space heater or tool could damage the pipe, cause a fire, and create safety hazards if not vented correctly during use.

  • An infrared heat lamp can be used to increase warmth within a wall and help thaw a pipe behind it. Set up the heat lamp close to the frozen area and allow it to run, which will generate heat surrounding the pipe in the wall.

Once you see normal pressure and supply from water faucets, the ice is likely completely melted and you can shut off the faucet. Check pipes for damage and look for symptoms of leaks in your home. Contact your plumber to make repairs or replace damaged water pipes.

Get Professional Help for Frozen Pipes

With the above tips from Mr. Plumber, we hope you’ll be able to prevent frozen pipes throughout the winter season. If frozen pipes impact your Central Indiana home and you’re unable to thaw them yourself or require repairs after frozen pipes burst, call Mr. Plumber today. We offer 24/7 emergency plumbing repair service to provide the help you need when you need it most.

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