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From the Fire Marshal’s Office: Prevention & Thawing Of Frozen Pipes

During cold weather, the possibility of frozen water pipes and supply lines in the home becomes a concern. Great pressure is put on metal and plastic (PVC) pipes when the water they contain freezes and expands. Regardless of the strength of the pipes, expanding water can cause breakage. Pipes that are outdoors, run against exterior walls with little insulation, or are in unheated interior areas are those most likely to freeze and burst. An eighth of an inch crack can release 250 gallons of water per day. The Orange Fire Marshal’s Office offers the following information and suggestions to prevent and thaw frozen pipes.

These steps can be taken to prevent freezing of water supply lines and pipes. Disconnect and drain outside hoses and shut off the inside valve that supplies the hose. Turn on the outside faucet to allow water to drain and keep it open to let any remaining water expand without breaking the pipe. Drain water sprinkler and swimming pool supply lines according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Do not add antifreeze to these lines, unless directed to do so. Check the unheated areas inside the home where water supply lines are located. Both hot and cold water pipes should be insulated in basements, attics, garages and under bathroom and kitchen cabinets. Any pipe can freeze, if it is cold and water is not running through it. Consider insulating water pipes with a “pipe sleeve”, “heat tape” or similar products that are available at local building supply retailers. Wrap pipes and joints carefully. Newspaper can be used to provide some protection to exposed pipes. Look for air leaks near pipes, dryer vents, electrical wiring and other possible openings and seal with caulk or insulation. Know the location of the main shutoff valve. Open and close it to be sure that it operates properly. Close garage doors even if there are no water pipes in the garage. An unheated garage can be twenty or more degrees warmer than the outside and can help warm adjoining rooms. Open the doors on kitchen and bathroom cabinets to warm the plumbing. Allow water to drip from faucets which are connected to exposed pipes. The temperature of the running water will be above freezing. Make sure the heat registers are open in all rooms with running water. If leaving the home, do not turn off the furnace or set the thermostat lower than 55˚.

Suspect a frozen pipe if little or no water comes out of a faucet. The frozen area is most likely to be in a pipe on an exterior wall or where the water supply line enters the home through the foundation. If the frozen pipe has split, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve, keep the faucets turned on and call a licensed plumber. If the pipe is not damaged, apply heat to the frozen area using a hair dryer, an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, a space heater or towels soaked in hot water. Do not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water. Never use a blowtorch, or other open flame. Leave the faucets turned on, as running water will help to thaw the pipe. If unable to locate the frozen area or if it is not accessible, call a plumber. Check all faucets in the home for additional frozen pipes. Pipes may freeze, despite the suggested steps. When thawing, be sure to use a safe heat source, under constant supervision.

For the future, consider relocating any exposed pipes to more protected areas. Place additional insulation in attics, basements and crawl spaces to achieve higher temperatures.

By taking a few precautions, the damage, cost and aggravation of frozen water supply lines can be prevented or mitigated. For more information, you may contact The Orange Fire Marshal’s Office at (203) 891-4711, Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm or visit the website, www.orangefiremarshal.com.

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