What Causes Frozen Pipes?

Written on: December 11, 2023

Keep your home’s plumbing safe with service from AFC

frozen pipes Winslow, me When the temperature plummets here in Central Maine, there is often concern about pipes freezing in homes.

This concern is understandable, as frozen pipes can burst and, if left unattended, cause major water damage.

AFC’s team of licensed, skilled, and experienced plumbers is here to help when you have frozen pipes or need other plumbing services.

The reason pipes freeze is straightforward. There is always some water in your pipes. If it gets cold enough inside your home, the water in your pipes freeze and eventually block water from coming through. Water pipes burst when the water inside them expands near freezing point, resulting in increased pressure that exceeds the pipe’s capacity. Eventually, the pressure becomes too much to handle, leading to pipe rupture.

We’ve put together some important tips to help protect your pipes, detect frozen pipes, and what to do if your pipes freeze.

How to protect your pipes from freezeing

Insulate your pipes: Pipe insulation can be beneficial in crawl spaces and attics of homes, as exposed pipes are more vulnerable to freezing.

Use heat tape or cables: To prevent frozen pipes, you can use heat tape or thermostatically-controlled heat cables. It’s important to choose products specifically designed for either exterior or interior use, and make sure they are approved by a reputable testing organization like Underwriters Laboratories Inc. Follow the manufacturer’s installation and operation instructions diligently.

Don’t forget outdoor pipes and plumbing: Before the onset of winter, it is advisable to disconnect garden hoses and, if feasible, utilize an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes that lead to outdoor faucets. This precautionary measure can help prevent the freezing of the short section of pipe located just inside the house.

Stop cold aid leaks: Cold air can infiltrate your home through access points like wiring, dryer vents, and pipes. Use sealers to close those gaps.

Let a faucet run slightly: To prevent your pipes from freezing, a simple trickle of water can make all the difference. During cold temperatures, it is recommended to let warm water drip overnight, preferably from a faucet on an external wall.

Open cabinet doors: This facilitates the transfer of heat to pipes that lack insulation and are located beneath sinks and appliances adjacent to exterior walls.

Leave the heating system running: This is especially important if you are going to be away from home. Turn the thermostat down, but keep the heat on enough so there’s warmer air in the house.

How to detect frozen pipes

You may not notice your pipes have frozen until it’s too late and they burst. But if you know warning signs, you can head that problem off at the pass. Here are some things to keep an eye out for

  • little or no water coming from a faucet
  • frost on the exterior of the pipe
  • a foul odor coming from drains and faucets

How to defrost frozen pipes

It is important to follow safety best practices if your pipes do freeze. First, check the faucets in your home. If only one won’t run, that may be something you can fix yourself. If no water comes out of most or all of the faucets, it’s best to contact AFC and leave this work to the professionals.

Warm up the house, either by turning on or turning up the heat, or safely using space heaters in places like attics or basements.

Is an exposed pipe frozen? You can try to defrost it by applying heat gently. To thaw a frozen pipe, first identify the affected pipe. Then, gently warm it using a hairdryer or similar device. Avoid using an open flame or boiling water, as these may lead to the pipe bursting.

If you have any concerns, get in touch with AFC and we’ll gladly come help.

Get the best plumbing service in Central Maine with AFC! Contact us for your plumbing needs.