Protect Against Frozen Pipes-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Protect Against Frozen Pipes

It's the time of year again when we have to be concerned with frozen pipes in our homes.  Perhaps more importantly, we need to consider how to thaw them without causing a fire.

Obviously, preventing the pipes from freezing in the first place is the best option, and there are many ways to do that.

ü  Open cabinets beneath sinks to allow heat to circulate around the pipes.

ü  Let faucets drip.  Moving water freezes more slowly than still water.

ü  Insulate pipes in your home's attic, basement,  or crawl space.

ü  Disconnect outside water hoses from spigots and drain the hoses.  Then, shut off the outdoor spigot and drain it, leaving the spigot open.

ü  Seal leaks in the foundation that allow cold air to infiltrate.  Be sure not to cover vents for any fuel-fired equipment such as furnaces or hot water tanks.

ü  Maintain heat in your home at a comfortable level, even if you will be away from home.

ü  If you choose to drain piping when leaving for an extended period, close the shut-off valve while the faucets are running, to drain the pipes.  Contact your gas or electric supplier for instructions on how to protect your water heater.  If you have a fire protection system in your home, remember that shutting off the water will deactivate it.

If the pipes have frozen, don’t try to thaw them yourself.  Call a plumber and move combustible materials away from the area if he will be using a torch.  Have a fire extinguisher handy, and observe the area for 30 minutes after the work is done, to be sure that no embers or overheated material remain.

By: James Gindlesperger, jg57@andrew.cmu.edu, 412-268-3760