Traveling out of town this weekend? Make sure your pipes don’t freeze during the pre-Christmas storm

Red Cross gives tips to prevent household pipes from freezing

Generic image of a frozen pipe. (Pixabay)

If you are traveling out of town for the holidays this weekend, make sure to take the necessary precautions so your pipes don’t freeze when you are away.

Water expands when it freezes, which can bring danger to your home and a headache of a cleanup if your pipes freeze and break.

According to the Red Cross, pipes that most frequently freeze are outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages or kitchen cabinets and pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation.

Related: Restock your weather emergency kit before the pre-Christmas winter storm hits Michigan

If you haven’t already, the Red Cross wants to remind those with swimming pools or water sprinkler systems to drain their water. Also, do not put antifreeze in these lines, as it’s dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife and landscaping.

It is recommended to insulate exposed water pipes with pipe sleeves or heat tape on exposed water pipes. For a cheaper option, newspapers can offer protection in this area and be used to wrap around pipes.

Below are a few ways from the Red Cross on how you can prevent your pipes from freezing:

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, and set it to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

If you are coming home from vacation and find that you have a frozen pipe, here are a few things to do before you need to call a plumber:

  1. Turn on a faucet and if only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe.
  2. Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  3. Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
  4. Apply heat until the full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  5. Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
  6. If your water pipes have already burst, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve in the house. Be sure to leave the water faucets turned on.

Read more: Winter travel tips: How to get vehicle unstuck from snow, list of emergency supplies to take with you

About the Author:

Elizabeth Washington is a Digital News Editor and has been with Local 4 News since April 2022.