We had a news report this week about a home that burned because a man was trying to thaw frozen pipes. It happens a lot this time of year. So I did some research on how to prevent the problem, and how to deal with it when it happens.

The American Red Cross has some great suggestions on how to prevent your pipes from freezing.

  • Keep your garage door closed, if there are water pipes located there.
  • When temperatures drop to dangerous levels, keep a trickle of water going through any tap served by exposed pipes. Even the smallest amount of water can help prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Don't turn down the thermostat at night. It might save money on your electric bill, but could cost much more when your pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you're going away, keep the heat on in the house with the thermostat set no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

If your pipes do freeze, the Red Cross has suggestions on how to safely thaw them.

  • First, turn on the water tap. As the pipe starts to thaw, the water moving through it will help melt some of the ice.
  • Apply heat to the frozen section of pipe with a heating pad wrapped around the pipe, a blow dryer, or by wrapping  hot damp towels around the pipe.
  • A portable space heater can be used, but make sure it's well away from any flammable materials.
  • DO NOT use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
  • Apply heat until the water pressure is fully restored. Check all the faucets in the house to make sure all are working correctly.
  • And finally, if you can't get the pipe to thaw, call a plumber.