• Geoff Burke

What Do I Do When My Pipes Freeze?



Hey everyone, welcome to this week’s episode of “How NOT to Call the Plumber!” – Frozen Pipes Edition!


With the current cold snap we’re going through, I’m sure many of you have woken up to frozen pipes this morning (potentially for the second time in a week!). Today we’re going to talk about what to do if your pipes do freeze, how you can prevent this happening in the future, and an interesting way to safeguard your home if a pipe does in fact freeze and burst!


Frozen pipes are not only a nuisance, but also a potential danger to your house in the event that they burst. This is why you want to get them thawed out as quickly as possible. To do that, there are a couple of different things you need to do:


First, figure out where the freeze has occurred. It may seem confusing, but if you think of you water system as a tree, you can likely figure this out. The trunk of the tree will be the main water supply into the house. From the trunk, there are medium sized branches, then attached to those are smaller branches. The further away from the trunk you get, the more branches there are. Putting this into practical thinking, if you have no water in the entire home, the freeze has occurred somewhere along the trunk (this could be inside the home, but before it branches off to any of the bathrooms, kitchen, etc.). If you are experiencing no water in just one bathroom, the freeze has occurred in the branch that is leading to that bathroom. If you are experiencing no water in just one fixture, the freeze has occurred in the smallest branches leading just to that spot.


Once you’ve figured out where the pipe is frozen, you need to take a two-step approach. First, open all of the affected faucets, shower, etc. and leave them open. Even if there is no water flowing, we want to release as much built-up pressure in the pipes as we can. This will help somewhat to protect against the pipe bursting. Secondly, we want to introduce warm air to the frozen area. Now be smart about this – that doesn’t mean blasting a space heater at something that can catch on fire (only you can be the judge of this part). Open cabinets, open access panels in the basement, use blow dryers – heat will start to eventually thaw out those pipes.


If you’ve found the correct frozen area, you should eventually start to see a very small stream of water coming from the affected fixtures. This is good news. Leave the fixtures wide open and allow that water to run – the running water will help speed up the process of the thaw and you’ll be back to normal in no time! Also, if you are susceptible to frozen pipes, the best way to prevent it happening in the first place is just to leave a very small stream of water flowing when it drops to temperatures that put you at risk.


With all of that said, unfortunately some of you will inevitably not be so lucky and will have a pipe burst somewhere in the house. I want to quickly go over a type of device that can greatly reduce the amount of damage to the house in an event like this.


There are a few products like the “Flow by Moen” and “Phyn Plus”, which will automatically shut the water off to your house in case of emergency. Also, they track water usage, so you will know if you have a very small leak in the house, which can add up to hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on your next water bill. The most interesting thing about these devices is that they will connect to your phone, so you’ll have a full picture of water usage in the home, as well as the ability to remotely open or close the main shut off valve to the house. These are very useful devices and worth considering for the peace of mind alone!


That is all for this week! I hope you (and your pipes) are all able to stay warm enough over the next couple of days. We’ll see you next week!

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