Freezing Weather: The 3 P’s (Pipes, Plants, & Pets)

As freezing weather assaults southeast Texas folks are going to hear a lot about the 3 P’s…protect your pipes, plants, and pets!  Plants and pets are pretty straight forward, right?  Cover them up, bring them in, or give them shelter from the cold, but what about the pipes?  You can’t just pick them up and move them to a warmer place; however, you can take some simple steps to protect your home from damage caused by frozen pipes.

The pipes at the highest risk of freezing are water pipes that are exposed, for example, pipes in an un-insulated or under insulated attic, crawl space or garage, outside hose bibbs, swimming pool supply lines, sprinkler system supply lines, etc.  Failing to properly prepare water lines for the cold snaps that hit the region each year can result in costly repair expenses.  A little bit of preparation can make a huge difference in your pipes weathering the freezing temperatures.

Scientific Analysis: How the damage occurs…

When water freezes it expands, unfortunately, your pipes do not…thus, frozen pipes will frequently break.  Then when the ice thaws the mess begins.

Plan Ahead: Before the cold weather hits…

Swimming Pool and Sprinkler System Supply Lines- Drain the water according to the manufacturer or installer’s guide lines.

Outdoor Hose Bibbs- Detach and drain the water hose and store it away.  Cover the hose bibb with an insulated cover (found at most hardware stores), or wrap it with a cloth and secure it with tape.

Other Exposed Pipes- Insulate the pipes with an insulated pipe sleeve (found at most hardware stores).

Baby, It’s Cold Outside: During the freeze…    

Pipes in the Garage- Keep the garage door closed.

Pipes in the House- Open your cabinet doors so that warm air is able to circulate around the pipes and keep your thermostat at a consistent temperature.

Hasta La Vista: Leaving town during the winter…

Pipes in the House- Open your cabinet doors so that warm air is able to circulate around the pipes.  Leave your heater on and set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.   *OR* Turn the water to your house off at the main supply near the meter, open up the taps and allow the water in the lines to drain out.  If there is no water in the line then it will not freeze.

Uh oh, too late: Thawing frozen pipes…

Locate the main water supply line to your home and be prepared to turn it off if the frozen pipe has already broken.  Open up the faucet that the frozen pipe feeds, and keep it open.  As the pipe thaws the water will flow out which will help to melt more ice.  Use a heating pad, electric hair dryer, towels soaked in hot water, or a portable heater to heat the frozen pipe.  Do not use extremely hot heat sources such as blow torches, open flames or propane heaters to thaw the pipe because it will cause damage to the pipe, as well as, present a serious fire and carbon monoxide hazard.  Apply heat to the pipe until full water pressure is restored.   If you are unable to locate the frozen pipe, the frozen area is not within reach, you cannot get the pipe to thaw, or the pipe has broken, call Able Plumbing, Inc. at 281-532-2253, 24 hours a day/7 days a week.

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Adapted from:

Winter Storms: Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes, Texas A & M University

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