BLACKFOOT — Water…we use it every day. It is at our fingertips with the turn of a faucet. We wash our dishes, clothes and take showers in the beautiful substance we often take for granted until suddenly, it is gone. Water has the chemical ability to turn to a gas when it is hot and freeze solid when it is cold. Freezing water is great for ice cubes and snow but when it comes to frozen plumbing, we would rather it not.
Most native Idahoans know the drill, leave your faucets on with a small stream of water, drain your sprinkler lines, and remember to insulate those pipes. The night you forget to leave the faucet running can leave you in a panicked state in the morning with no running water and a fear of bursting pipes.
Real estate agent Jennifer Brunson said, "The power went out at one of my foreclosure properties; the furnace didn't re-light and the entire house was froze up solid. Literally frozen toilets and all. The repairs are still being completed!"
Frozen pipes are time-consuming and sometimes costly to repair.
Pipes that are most likely to freeze are those exposed to the extreme cold. Water supply pipes in unheated areas like basements an crawl spaces, attics and garages or underneath kitchen sinks are often subject to freezing and bursting.
Owner of Big Dawg Plumbing Casey Monson offers tips to prevent your pipes from freezing, "The best thing to do in cold, cold temperatures is to open the cabinet doors. Leave bedroom doors open so that heat can get to the pipes."
Monson told of how Cafe Rio in Pocatello recently experienced frozen pipes in the drop ceiling. "The temperature in the space between the ceiling and roof was just as cold as the weather outside." said Monson. The lack of insulation and heat vents caused a serious problem for the popular food chain. Monson said, "It could have been prevented with vents in the ceiling. The hot air rising would have heated the space."
Metal and plastic piping, despite their durability are not strong enough to withhold the intense pressure of water as it expands when it is frozen. Once those pipes are frozen, it is best to start thawing them as quickly as possible.
"If frozen, open the faucets and start moving some heat." said Monson, "When it does thaw the water can start moving." Monson advises using a space heater 12-18 inches from the wall to thaw the frozen pipes. "A blow dryer also works," said Monson, "It provides constant hot air and doesn't overheat."
Torches and other open flames create a fire hazard and should not be used. Another good solution, turn up the heat. Hot air rises naturally so if you have plumbing in the ceiling the hot air will travel there naturally.
After your pipes are thawed, check the area for any broken pipes. If there are it's time to contact a plumber. Monson encourages everyone to try to prevent their pipes from freezing with the simple tactics outlined. If your pipes do freeze or in case of a plumbing emergency you can contact Big Dawg Plumbing at 403-7195 or other plumbers listed in the phone book.