The past few winters have been extraordinarily cold in many parts of the United States. Extended sub-zero temperatures can often lead to frozen pipes. While such a problem is inconvenient, freezing can also cause pipes to burst (since ice takes up more space than water.) When the temperature rises again, a big water cleanup could be necessary. Avoiding having your pipes freeze in the first place is the best course of action.
1. Open the tap...just a little bit. Flowing water is much less likely to freeze than still water. Think of a babbling creek that stays moving when the rest of the landscape is frozen. This works with your pipes, also. Keep the water moving by allowing your faucets to drip just slightly on extremely cold nights. The extra you pay for water will be more than offset by the savings of not having water damage from burst pipes.
2. Open the cabinets that house your pipes. Most bathroom and kitchen pipes are concealed in under-the-sink cabinets. If that's the situation in your home, open those doors so that the heated air from your living spaces can reach the pipes. Make sure to move any household cleansers or other hazardous chemicals you may have stored under the sink if you have small children and/or pets.
3. Make sure to turn off the water to your outside faucets. This is best done in the fall when you're preparing your home for the winter, but it's never too late. An outdoor faucet that hasn't been turned off can cause the pipe inside your home that connects to it to freeze.
4. Consider installing insulating sleeves on your pipes. If you have pipes that are housed in unheated areas, such as a crawl space or a garage, consider purchasing special insulating sleeves to put around these pipes. Again, your investment will more than pay for itself in security and by keeping your pipes from exploding.
Keeping your pipes from freezing isn't difficult, but it does require a little advance effort. However, if, despite your best efforts, you turn on your faucets and find that your pipes have frozen, it's time to call a plumbing professional like Stephens Plumbing And Heating Inc. Using a hair dryer or (heaven, forbid) a blow torch to thaw your pipes is a recipe for disaster and can cause a home fire or an injury. Hiring the services of a good plumber is more than worth the money.