This is a topic that is very close to my heart – since last week I was awoken at 5:30am, after the coldest evening in nearly a decade in this area, to a very angry wife demanding to know why the shower wasn’t working.
I was immediately gripped by fear – what are we going to do? Are our pipes frozen? How do we prevent the pipes from bursting? What happens if they do? Do I have to go in to the CalCas office without a shower?
Prevention: An ounce of prevention here is worth a pound of cure. If you know it’s going to be very cold, leave your faucets open a very small amount to keep the water moving. Open your cabinets to expose plumbing to room temperature air. This will help prevent pipes from freezing…but what should you do when they DO freeze?
First – you should open your faucets, one at the very least. This is because as you heat up the pipes, it’s possible you’ll create steam. That steam needs a place to release to, especially since the expanding ice may already be stressing your plumbing.
Second – expose as many areas of plumbing as you can to warmed indoor air. Open up your cupboards and bathroom vanities (make sure you gather up any toxic materials if you have pets or little ones around the house).
Third – use a hairdryer or heat gun to warm the frozen pipes. Be very careful doing this, as even a hairdryer can get hot enough to cause burns. You can also try rubbing the pipes with a towel soaked in warm water.
You definitely want to be home when your pipes thaw because there’s always a chance a pipe has ruptured, which is something you can’t tell until the ice inside them has thawed.
You should also make yourself aware of the location of your main water shutoff valve and how to close it. If a pipe does burst, it can do a great deal of damage to your home very quickly.
Another question that is very important is “Does my homeowner’s/renter’s policy cover damage caused by frozen pipes.” The answer to that is, probably. However, coverage can vary from policy to policy and from state to state, so it’s vital you check your policy before anything happens!
For those that were concerned – a few minutes with a hairdryer got my pipes thawed, and, much to the relief of my coworkers here at CalCas, I was able to shower and make it in to the office.