#1: Why They Burst
Frozen water pipes burst when there is a sudden change in temperature in the pipes. Frozen pipes will suddenly get much hotter when water flows through them, and the pipe cannot keep up with the massive temperature change. Turning your water on even one time after the pipe is frozen is enough to cause the pipe to burst almost immediately. Some pipe bursts are not explosions, but others could be devastating.
#2: What Problems Occur
Burst pipes will cause flooding in your home that will damage wiring, drywall and other fixtures in your house. You can see the stains on the wall when the water starts flowing, and you will lose power to come appliances if the wiring is damaged. Circuit breakers may be shorted out, and you must turn the water off immediately to prevent further damage.
#3: How Do You Know They Are Frozen?
You cannot see that pipes are frozen because most pipes are hidden behind the walls of your home. The few pipes you can see on the exterior of your home are easy to assess, but you may not have the time to go outside and check on the pipes when the temperature gets very cold. You must have a look at any exposed pipes in the house to ensure that they are not frozen.
#4: How Do You Thaw Them?
Thawing a frozen pipe in your home takes a bit of patience, but you can thaw the pipe using a towel and a bit of extra time in your day. A towel will prevent you from hurting your hands when you rub the pipe, and you must rub off any excess moisture on the pipes. The heat from your hands is much safer than the heat from water, and you must work on every exposed pipe in the house as much as you can. Let water drip in the pipes after the pipes are somewhat thawed, and you will have thawed pipes in a few hours.
#5: What Do You Do If They Burst?
Turn off the water to your home immediately by going for your emergency shutoff valve. This valve is inside the house, and there is a similar valve outside. Call for a plumber at once, and begin to clean up the water that has flooded your home. Your plumber will complete the work on your behalf once they arrive.
Keeping your home heated at 68 degrees or higher will help to prevent your pipes from freezing in the winter. If you have problems with pipes under the sink freezing, leaving you cabinets open to allow heated air to circulate can help. If you have pipes that are underground and freeze during winter, leaving the hot water on at a drip can help to alleviate this problem. For more ideas to prevent frozen pipes see the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org.