As fall temperatures turn into winter chills, the pipes in your house run the risk of freezing and breaking. This can cause serious water damage (which quickly turns into major wallet damage). In fact, frozen or broken water pipes are second only to hurricanes in terms of the number of homes they damage in the U.S. each year.
Locate your water shut-off valve. If you haven’t done it before, locate your water shut-off valve and familiarize yourself with it so you can quickly turn your water off if a pipe breaks.
Check your thermostat. If your house will be empty for more than a day or two, don’t set your thermostat lower than 55 degrees. The money spent on heating an empty home far outweighs the cost of a broken pipe!
Open your cabinets. If your pipes are in cabinets (e.g. under a sink), it’s a good idea to keep interior cupboard doors open during cold spells to let the warm air circulate around the pipes. This is especially important if the water pipes touch an exterior wall.
Let the faucet drip. If temperatures drop below 20 degrees F for an extended period of time, let any problematic faucets drip. This includes faucets that are fed by a pipe that has frozen in the past, or by a pipe that runs near an outside wall. Dripping relieves pressure, which can prevent a break. If your sink has separate hot and cold faucets, let both of them drip. If there’s just one faucet, set it to medium so the hot and cold lines are both activated.
Safely thaw frozen pipes. If you turn on a faucet and no water comes out, your pipe is likely frozen. Keep the faucet open, because the pipe will still need pressure relief. If you can see the frozen area (which will generally have frost on it), you can use an electric hair dryer to thaw the pipe. DO NOT use an open flame! This will damage the pipe and may even start a fire.