Colder winter temperatures bring a risk of frozen water pipes. Along with frozen water pipes come creative and dangerous attempts for thawing them. Every winter, homes are damaged or destroyed and lives are lost because people use propane torches or other flame sources for thawing water pipes. Homeowners located in areas of the country with generally mild winters are often the least prepared for freezing temperatures and frozen water pipes. As reported by Washington Post, a local handyman attempted to thaw his frozen water pipes with a propane torch. If he had to do it over again, he said he’d call a plumber.
The American Red Cross and fire departments around the country warn consumers of the dangers of using flames to thaw pipes. Both the American Red Cross website and the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue website provide general guidelines for prevention of frozen water pipes and how to safely thaw them, when necessary.
General guidelines to prevent frozen water pipes include:
- Closing inside valves supplying water to outdoor faucets;
- Keeping outside faucets open to allow water to drain;
- Installing electrically-heated tape or cable around pipes;
- Insulating pipes that are exposed or in unheated areas;
- Keeping garage door closed to keep water supply lines warm;
- Leaving a faucet on with a slow trickle when below freezing temperatures are expected.
General guidelines to thaw frozen water pipes include:
- Calling a plumber, especially if a frozen pipe breaks;
- Shutting off the water valve to a frozen pipe;
- Keeping the faucet of the frozen pipe open so water can flow through as it melts;
- Applying heat carefully to frozen pipes using a hair dryer;
- Using an electrically-heated tape or cable;
- Never using a torch or other open-flame device, as water in the frozen pipe could boil and cause the pipe to explode.