Why Do Pipes Freeze and What to Do About Them

Pipes Freeze in the Winter; Deal with That Fact

If you recall your basic Chemistry 101, water is a unique element that boils when heated and freezes at cold and high temperatures. When it freezes, it expands. Take note of a can with a cover filled with water and left in the freezer for some time. Observe that the can becomes distorted and misshaped. This is the same thing that happens with water pipes.  Plumbing pipes that run outside the house have a greater chance of getting frozen. While at times it can cause minor annoyances like slow running water from the spigot, there exists the possibility that the pipe can split or be damaged at the fittings.

How to Handle a Frozen Pipe

First determine how much of the pipe is blocked off, or damaged. Go around your home and turn on faucets to determine the location of the damaged pipe. Check to make sure if the hot water is flowing. Once you’ve located the frozen or damaged pipe, see if there is any serious leakage. Open the faucet nearest it so as to thaw it out. If the damage is really severe, stop here and call a plumbing service as this needs the repair of a professional. If the pipe is just frozen and is not damaged, you can thaw it out using the following methods:

  • You can start off by putting some hot towels around or under the pipe and see if the water will start flowing easily.
  • If the freezing is severe, you can wrap an electric heating pad around the pipe.
  • You can use a hair dryer.
  • Set up a portable room heater, but keep away flammable objects.

Even Under Extreme Circumstances, Never Use the Following:

  • Blowtorch
  • Propane or kerosene heaters
  • Charcoal stove
  • Any open flame device

Prevention is Still the Best Solution

As they say, the best solution will always be prevention since an ounce of prevention is much better than a pound of cure. Prepare for prevention in advance during the summer so your pipes can adjust during the fall. Basements, crawl spaces, underneath cabinets, attics, and the garage should be completely insulated. Also, when insulating water pipes, make sure to insulate both the hot and cold pipes. You can use “heat tape” or similar products on very hard to reach areas.

Do-It-Yourself Home Improvement Outdoor Project Ideas

Sprucing up your deck, patio, or yard just got an inspirational boost, thanks to these practical projects you can do yourself. They are all small and simple and all are worthwhile to make the outdoors more livable and lively come spring or summer.

Pallets in a Perky Palette

Wooden pallets are easy to come by on the cheap; many businesses will even give them away. They are the building blocks of a coffee table so low-maintenance, it can stay outside year-round. Stack two pallets together for height and feature a window box-style planter as a centerpiece.

Double Duty

Boost the function of a store-bought potting bench, which doubles as an outdoor serving station. Cut sections of lattice to fit the sides and back, paint them to match, such as saucy hot-pink, and fasten the lattice with screws. Use S-hooks or screw eyes to hang garden tools, gloves, buckets, or other necessities so they’re always within reach.

Flaming Centerpiece

Conjure up a festive mood with an outdoor fire bowl. Start with a fireproof container, such as a galvanized bowl primed and coated with outdoor paint in a cheery hue. Fill the bowl with recycled tempered glass chips, and tuck in a can of alcohol-free gel fuel. With a click of a lighter, the flame will dance and enchant for hours.

A Table that Rocks

Create an outdoor cocktail table both rustic and glamorous with just a few supplies. Five feet of heavy-duty metal hairpin fencing forms a wire cylinder, and use additional wire and pliers to secure the cylinder shape. Clip the bottom to a finished edge so there are no jagged spots. Set the cylinder near a cozy seating arrangement and fill the wire frame with river rocks, arranging them so that flat stones sit flush to the interior walls of the cylinder and so that the top tier of stones sits below the top edge. That way, a tempered glass tabletop can crown the whole assembly.

From Fins to Feather Bird House and Home Address

An old bait box can be outfitted as a birdhouse so it beckons to feathered friends. Drill an entrance hole into the door, and smooth the edges with a metal file. Position a doorknob plate an inch below the door, and secure with quick-setting epoxy. Clip off the metal points of brass house numbers, and adhere them a few inches below the door with dabs of epoxy to give this birdhouse an address. To hang, thread rope through the bait box’s loop and a vintage spring, and knot onto a sturdy branch near the home entrance.

Attempting to Slash Your Home Energy Bills

The squeeze on today’s homeowners shows no signs of easing. Heating-oil prices will rise 12 percent this winter, and your electric bill will likely jump again by the next year. There were a lot of rate freezes in the past 5 to 10 years, and many have now ended because utility companies are playing catch-up. That leaves homeowners wondering whether to invest in energy-saving improvements, even though federal tax credits have ended for upgrading insulation, windows, and heating and cooling equipment. Just one home in five built before 1980 started out with adequate insulation, reports the U.S. Department of Energy.

Adding fresh insulation to walls, ceilings, attics, and basements would bring immediate energy savings of 10 to 20 percent according to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, which works with state and federal officials on energy-saving programs for low-income families. But your house probably doesn’t need a complete overhaul. Cheap and simple tweaks can quickly pay for themselves. To start with, the best bang for your buck is to seal up and insulate your house.

Plug wall openings

Save up to $150 a year.

About 15 percent of air leakage in the average home occurs through wall openings. Spray insulating foam sealant ($4 a can) around holes for outdoor faucets and wiring, and install foam gaskets ($3 for a package of 10) around indoor electric outlets and light switches.

Weatherize windows and doors

Save up to $200 a year.

A few $5 tubes of water-based acrylic caulk can seal tiny leaks around windows and doors. For another $40 to $70, apply weather stripping to door frames. Another $15 will buy you enough plastic shrink film to cover 10 older, single-pane windows.

Update your thermostat

Save up to $200 a year.

Do you like your house to stay nippy at night but feel toasty when you wake up? A programmable thermostat such as one that you set to adjust temperatures automatically can cut 20 percent from heating and cooling bills.

Blanket your water heater

Save up to $200 a year.

Your water heater eats about 20 percent of your energy. Insulating exposed hot-water pipes with foam or fiberglass sleeves can raise water temps at the tap 2 to 4 degrees, allowing you to lower your water heater’s thermostat and shave roughly 1 percent off your total energy costs. An insulating blanket around the heater tank can chop another 9 percent. Pipe sleeves start at $2 for 12 feet; blankets run about $20.

Seal and wrap ductwork

Save up to $400 a year.

As much as 30 percent of the air from the furnace or air-conditioner escapes through ductwork, which expands and shrinks as temperatures change. If ducts are accessible, seal joints with brush-on mastic waterproof flexible sealant and wrap ductwork with HVAC insulation. A gallon of mastic costs about $30 and will close up to 40 joints. HVAC insulation wrap, a self-adhesive foam with foil backing, costs about $1 per foot.