image of the pipes under the sink.

How to Care for Frozen Pipes

Tips to help take control of your home’s water this winter

As long as your home’s plumbing works, you probably have no reason to think about it. But with increasing severe winter weather events, frozen pipes can be more of a reality than ever before, especially in parts of the country that aren’t used to freezing temperatures or polar vortices.

That’s why homeowners should take a preventative approach and know what to do at the first signs of trouble. Frozen pipes cause bursts, and potentially catastrophic water leaks.

5 ways to Help Prevent Frozen Pipes

Overall, you’ll want to inspect your home – inside and out—when the forecast calls for freezing temps. If you find a problem, call a professional to help you get in front of any freezing pipes.

One of the best ways to help avoid a catastrophic water incident inside your home is to get a Resideo WiFi Water Leak & Freeze Detector. It can send urgent alerts to your phone when the temperature near your pipes gets in the danger zone you can act quickly to help avoid flooding. Other preventative measures you can take include:

  1. Open any cupboard doors under your kitchen or bathroom sink to let the warm air inside your home circulate and keep the water pipes warmer – this is especially important when that plumbing is located on an outside wall.
  2. Let warm water slightly drip from your tap to keep the pipes warm especially on cold nights.
  3. Wrap insulation around your water pipes.
  4. Check valves, the water meter, joints and any other water connections for leaks.
  5. Monitor the water pressure in your home. If it’s higher than normal, check the installation points of entry, such as the water, for signs of a problem.
water meter.

You can check your water pressure - typically the water meter is located near where the water comes into the house. Resideo makes a pressure reducing valve with a gauge port, so you can easily read the pressure.

Seven Steps to Thaw Frozen Pipes

Not all frozen pipes are created equal, so homeowners may be able to thaw some of the minor freezes. Remember that patience is key to get out of the danger zone.

  1. A hairdryer or fan heater may be all the water pipe needs to thaw out. Always keep the hairdryer moving and do not hold it directly against the pipe because uneven or sudden heating can cause the pipe to burst.
  2. Placing a warm wet cloth around the pipe may also melt the ice inside. Change the cloth every five to ten minutes.
  3. Never use open flames from candles or propane torches, or boiling water in an attempt to thaw out frozen pipes. Rapid heating often leads to greater risk of pipes bursting, not to mention a fire hazard.
  4. Slightly open the faucet of the frozen water pipe and nearby taps. Running water does not freeze as quickly as standing water. As water flows near the frozen pipe area, it can help thaw the ice, but it may take two to three hours.
  5. Wrap heating tape from a hardware store around the length of the frozen pipe in a spiral patten and then plug it in. The heating elements inside warm up as soon as the heat tape is switched on.
  6. Heating the surrounding room can also help defrost your pipes. Place heaters, heat lamps or bare lightbulbs in the room with the frozen pipes. Leave any cabinet doors open to help with warm air distribution. Also hang blankets or tarps to keep the heat in but be careful to keep them away from the heat source.
  7. Pour a teaspoon of salt down the frozen drain and let it sit. Salt lowers the melting point of ice so it melts in colder temperatures.

The goal is to ensure that the pipes don’t freeze, expand and then burst. Once a frozen pipe bursts, water will leak out when the pipe thaws.

Cracked pipe.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes Behind Walls

Pipes behind the walls are trickier to thaw. The only option is to heat up the room and wait. Please take the necessary precautions when using powered appliance near wet surfaces. Consider these three tips:

  • Let a fan heater blow in the ventilation slots outside. Use a cardboard box or tarp to keep the heat from escaping.
  • Turn up the heat. Set your home’s thermostat temperature to 75 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit for about two to three hours. Open all the cupboard doors that have pipes in the walls behind them to help circulate the warm air.
  • As a last resort, use a jigsaw to cut a hole in the wall to reach a frozen pipe before it bursts. Before doing this, precisely localize the pipe. After you saw the hole, use the methods above to thaw the frozen pipe.

If you rent, reach out to a landlord for help. If you discover a crack in a water pipe, shut off the main water supply and all taps immediately and call a certified plumber.

For additional tips about preparing your home for cooler weather, check out this Resideo article about protecting your home during a polar vortex. To learn more about water products that save time and money, visit Resideo’s water solutions page.