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Prevent frozen pipe breakage with these tips

The Farmer’s Almanac predicts a mild but snowy winter for Missouri this year. But temperatures will get below freezing and that can be hard on your plumbing. As winter arrives in Excelsior Springs, homeowners are reminded to take preventative steps in protecting their pipes from breaking.

Frozen water pipes can turn from an annoyance to a major expense if they break. Pipes that are located in unheated areas of the home, or run along exterior walls, are particularly vulnerable to freezing. Bob Schultheis, a natural resource engineering specialist for the University of Missouri Extension, suggests installing specific products made to protect and insulate those pipes, such as a pipe sleeve. Or, you can install UL-listed heat tape or heat cable to exposed water pipes.

In addition, homeowners should keep garage doors closed and cabinet doors open. Leaving the cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathroom open allows warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. In extreme cold, you may want to face an electric heater toward the pipes, for additional warmth. Allowing cold water to trickle from faucets during extremely cold weather is helpful, too.

Another measure of protection against frozen pipes is keeping the thermostat at a steady temperature both day and night. “By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst,” Schultheis said.

If you do suspect a frozen pipe – most likely because water only trickles from a faucet when turned on – locate the suspected frozen area of the water pipe immediately. The first places to inspect should be pipes running along exterior walls, and where your water service enters your home through the foundation. Once found, keep the faucet open, Schultheis recommended.

“As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt more ice in the pipe,” he stated. Then, apply heat to the frozen section of the pipe, using either an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater, or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water.

“Do no use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device,” Schultheis warned. “A blowtorch can make water in a frozen pipe boil and cause the pipe to explode. All open flames in homes present a serious fire danger, as well as a severe risk of exposure to lethal carbon monoxide.”

If full water pressure cannot be restored, call a licensed plumber. Also, be aware that if one pipe has frozen, others may have frozen, too. Check all the faucets in your home.

By Samantha Kilgore •

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