January 14th, 2007 Homeowners woke on Sunday morning and discovered that their toilets wouldn’t flush; they couldn’t take a shower or even make a pot of coffee. There was, in fact, no running water in the house. Plumbing by Kirk received 9 pages on their emergency line before 8am. And a total of 19 calls by 4:00pm. People were in a panic, wondering why they had no water. Some knew their pipes were frozen and were afraid they would burst. Kirk calmed their nerves and told them that it was just a waiting game. He gave them advice, which you’ll find below.
If you’re dealing with frozen pipes, here are some important tips from Kirk:
- Open your bathtub faucet. This not only relieves pressure, but also as water begins to flow through the frozen pipes and the frozen area begins to melt; water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Periodically running water will help melt more ice in the pipe.
- Apply heat to frozen pipes using an electric hair dryer or a portable space heater (clear area of flammable material). Wrap pipes with towels soaked in hot water.
- Continue to apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if it is not accessible, or if you can’t thaw the pipe on your own, call a licensed plumber.
- Check all faucets in your home for additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may also freeze.
WARNING: Never use a blowtorch, kerosene, propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device. A blowtorch can make water in a frozen pipe boil, causing the pipe to explode. Any open flame in your home presents serious fire danger, as well as severe risk of exposure to lethal carbon monoxide.
Prevent Frozen Pipes
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. With more cold weather ahead, prevent freezing of your pipes with these recommendations by Plumbing by Kirk:
- Check around your home for location of water supply lines. Remember to look in crawl spaces, attic, garage, and under kitchen/bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
- Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes, like a “pipe sleeve” or UL-listed heat tape, heat cable, or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Purchase these at your local building supplies retailer. Hint: Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation. As little as ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that are not frequently exposed to freezing temperatures.
- Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Remove, drain and store outdoor hoses. Keep outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
- Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines, following manufacturer or installer’s directions. IMPORTANT: Don’t put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is harmful to the environment, and dangerous to humans, pets, and landscape.
Leaving For Winter Vacations
- Avoid turning your heat off to save money on heating bills while you’re away from your home for extended periods of time. You may lower your heating bill, but you put your water pipes in jeopardy of freezing. The best safeguard is to drain the water system. With no water in the pipes, there is nothing to freeze. This is also a worthy solution, even when you’re not away but concerned about an overnight freeze. To drain the system, shut off the main valve, usually located with the water meter or where the main line enters the house. Go through the house and turn on every faucet until the lines are empty and water stops running. It is not necessary to leave the faucets on at this point, as there is mostly air running through an nothing left to freeze. Upon returning, turn on the main valve and turn on all of the faucets so water can run through and pipes are full again.
Preparation is the key, and not only when temps fall below freezing. Here’s some valuable year-round advice offered by Kirk Stinson of Plumbing by Kirk:
<!--[if !supportLists]-->· Don't be a drip: Check outside drains and rain gutters to see if they are clean and free of debris.
With the increase of seasonal cooking and entertaining, also check and maintain drains inside your house, especially in the kitchen. The minute you get a stoppage, it's already too late.<!--[endif]-->
- Got gas? According to Kirk, some 65% of homeowners have no idea where their gas and water valves are, let alone know how to shut them off. Bad. Know how and when to do this. Rule of thumb - unless you smell gas do not shut it off, even during earthquakes and emergencies.
- Speaking of quakes: Be ready for anything. Earthquakes happen so make sure your house has proper strapping to keep key items in place during a tumbler, especially water heaters.
- Heating up: After the recent fire devastation in the valley, consider installing an emergency fire-connect sprinkler system for the perimeter of your yard and property. You can also put together a fire-sprinkler pre-fab kit to have on hand for extreme hot and dry weather conditions.
For more advice, please contact your “Hometown Plumber” Plumbing by Kirk at
(661) 263-6519 or log on to www.plumbingbykirk.com  .