Do forget about your water pipes this winter. I always hear a story ever winter about a person’s pipes being frozen up. Don’t let that happen to you.
Insulate Pipes to Prevent Freezing:
As the winter approaches, you should make every effort you can to prevent the risk of your pipes freezing, which can cause a blockage of your water supply, and in the worst case, lead to the breaking of your pipes. When pipes freeze the flow of the water is completely blocked. As water expands as it turns into ice, the pipes are very likely to burst. This can be an expensive problem to fix, and a disastrous occurrence in the frigid winter months. Not only outdoor pipes can freeze, pipes that may run along exterior walls or crawl spaces that are exposed to colder temperatures are at risk. Both hot and cold-water pipelines alike can freeze, so be sure to protect both.
Prevention: Begin to insulate your pipes early to prevent freezing, starting before freezing temperatures hit. You can insulate your pipes with foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation, wrapping the insulating material around the pipes. For extra protection in the areas of your home that are not heated, pipes may first be wrapped with special heating strips, and then outer insulation wrapped on top of that. More on Insulating Your Pipes for the Winter
If you home has faucets that are attached to the outside of your home, chances are that there is a turnoff valve somewhere on the pipe on the interior of your home. Turn off the water at this valve for the duration of the winter; if you do not have a switch, you should seriously consider installing one to save you trouble. Switch the valve shut, and then open the outside valve to drain out the remaining water. This will protect the pipes that lead to the outdoors from freezing.
Try to spot any trouble with your pipes before it's too late, keeping your eye out for signs that may signify pipes that are beginning to freeze. Is the water pressure becoming reduced? There is a good chance the water in your pipes is starting to freeze and you should take action immediately.
If there is an especially cold spell and you fear your pipes are going to freeze, despite what efforts you have taken, there is still a last-resort trick. Leave one of your faucets, farthest from the supply of your home's water, open and running slightly. If the water is running, it will be less liable to freeze, and the flow of the water should also work to thaw wherever the water already may have frozen in the pipes. It might be a waste of water, but in an extreme case it is a better alternative than a frozen, busted pipe on a freezing winter night.
Thawing Frozen Pipes: In most cases pipes will freeze overnight when it's coldest, unfortunately sneaking up on you despite the precautions you took. Though this is a bad situation, there are some measures you can take yourself to thaw them. First check to see if the pipes are leaking or have burst. If this is the case then you will need to have the pipes repaired before you can attempt to thaw them.
You should first shut off the water supply to the problem pipe. If you do not have a valve for a specific frozen line, then you'll have to shut off the water flow at the main water valve of your house. Open a couple faucets in order to provide a location for the melting ice to flow. There are quite a few methods you can use to thaw the pipes, but you must be careful that they are not heated too quickly and that the water in the pipes does not boil, as the pressure of the resulting steam could cause bursting. Be cautious that the pipes don't become too hot to touch; in addition it is wise to wear protective gloves. If the pipes are plastic then use special caution as they are prone to melting. When you are thawing the pipes, work from the faucet end back toward the frozen area. Here are some do-it-yourself methods:
•Use a hairdryer, focusing on the frozen area of the pipe. Always remember to work from the faucet (or valve) toward the frozen area.
•Wrap rags around the pipe where it is frozen, and pour hot water on them. Make sure to keep pouring more hot water on the rags to keep them hot.
•Wrap a grounded heat-strip around the frozen pipe.
•Carefully direct a space heater to the frozen area of the pipe in order to thaw it out.