Air pipes

Frozen pipes: how to avoid bursting

MADISON — You’ve turned up the heat, put on your favorite sweats, and you’re staying sheltered from the elements. But just because you’re safe from freezing on this alert day doesn’t mean the pipes in your home are.

Burst pipes are one of the most common causes of property damage in the winter and can result in a bill of $5,000 or more. So it’s not a bad idea to know some prevention tips.

The pipes most at risk are inside indoor spaces like basements, attics and garages; but, it is good to protect all pipes. Here are some tips to protect them from freezing: let cold water run from a faucet to keep water moving, and open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes. Be sure to remove all harmful cleaners from cabinets to ensure the safety of children and pets.

Here are some other tips you may not know: keep your garage door closed and keep your thermostat set at the same temperature day and night. Heating your home during freezing temperatures can be more expensive than normal, but a flooded home from burst pipes is much more expensive than a heating bill.

If your pipes freeze in this weather, there are several ways to prevent them from bursting and the ensuing mess.

First, you need to determine whether they are frozen. To do this, open your taps as usual; if only a trickle comes out of them, there is good reason to suspect that they are frozen. To thaw them, use a small form of heat on the exposed pipe. Do not use anything with an open flame, as this could damage the hose and risk a fire. Instead, use a hair dryer, space heater or a towel soaked in hot water on the hose. Apply heat until you have full water pressure again, then check all the other faucets in your home to make sure there are no other frozen pipes.

If all else fails, fall back on your safety net and call a plumber.