When temperatures get below 20 degrees Fahrenheit and stay there for a while, the chances are good that your outdoor pipes and faucets are going to freeze. Although this is an inconvenience for sure, it is nothing to be overly concerned about because learning what to do in these situations is easier than you think. The sooner you get to work on your frozen pipes and faucet, the sooner your life can return to normal. Knowing what to do is the first step to take.
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Prevention Is Best, but…
Although preventing your faucet from freezing in the first place is the best course of action to take, this isn’t always going to happen so it’s good to learn how to thaw a frozen outdoor faucet once you notice that this has happened. The good news is that the task is relatively simple even if you know nothing about plumbing or frozen pipes.
In fact, there are several steps that you need to take care of frozen faucets, and they are all easy steps to take. Here they are in more detail:
- First, open up the faucet all the way. There is an interior stem washer located in the valve seal on the inside of the faucet. When the faucet is opened, that washer will be dislodged. This, in turn, allows the water to flow freely through the faucet once you get it thawed out properly.
- Next, you’ll want to wrap up the faucet tightly before going any further. You can do this by wrapping old rags or towels around the supply pipe, handle, and the spindle. Do not wrap around the faucet opening because that’s where the water will be flowing out of shortly.
- Fill up a large pitcher with hot water and slowly pour the water over the wrapped spigot. Make sure that the material is soaked completely, then stop and look for any trickles that might be found. Eventually, the spigot will be thawed but it will likely take more than just one time to make this happen.
- Once the faucet starts running, don’t turn it off too soon. In fact, you’ll need to let the faucet run for several minutes before you turn it off, then turn it back on and repeat the process. It will take some time for the water to run all the way through the spout. The longer the water runs, the more frozen sections of pipe will thaw out and run out of the spigot. In other words, you’ll have to run the faucet by turning it on and off until all of the water shoots out through the spout and this might take a while.
Are There Other Ways to Thaw Out a Frozen Faucet?
In case you’re wondering, there are other ways to thaw out frozen pipes and faucets. Pouring hot water over a faucet may take a while but it’s a very reliable way to thaw out the faucets and pipes in your home. Nevertheless, if you’re interested in trying something else, here are some additional methods that will work:
- Use a hair dryer and turn it on the highest (hottest) setting. Since this requires that you use an electrical outlet, you’ll have to be extra careful if you use this technique; however, it is a very reliable method even though it sometimes takes a long time to work.
- Instead of towels and rags, use specialized heat tape to wrap around your spigot. These tapes are usually sold in different lengths and, as with a hair dryer, they require the use of an electrical outlet.
- Use either a space heater or heat lamp to slowly thaw out the faucet. If you use either of these devices, you’ll want to make sure that you use them properly and pay close attention to any instructions that come with them.
Since all of these methods require an electrical outlet in order to work, you’ll need to be extra careful if you use any of them. And one useful suggestion: if using any of these methods requires that you use several extension cords in order to use them properly, you may want to reconsider choosing that particular technique.
The more extension cords you have to use, the more dangerous it becomes; therefore, you may want to simply use the hot water method instead. The hot water method can be executed safely and without the need to plug anything in, which means that there is no worrying about getting water too close to the electrical cords and experiencing some type of accident.
Preventing Pipes and Faucets From Freezing
If you’re wondering just how to prevent a frozen outdoor faucet from occurring in the first place, it is actually a lot simpler than you might think. The first thing you’ll need to do is listen to the weather report because when a meteorologist tells you that it’s going to freeze, you’ll need to take immediate action to prevent the faucets from freezing.
Just as with thawing out your pipes and faucets, there are several ways to prevent these fixtures from freezing in the first place and these include:
- If you have any hoses connected to your outdoor faucets, disconnect them and then drain them completely. Afterwards, make sure that you move them somewhere inside so they are safe from cracks and damages once it starts to freeze.
- Look for your shut-off valves connected to any outdoor faucets you may have, then close each one of them and drain each one properly.
- Wrap each spigot tightly to protect them against the freezing temperatures. You can use either insulating tubing or waterproof faucet covers as both of them are inexpensive and easy to find.
If your pipes burst anyway because something wasn’t done properly or you didn’t get to them in time, don’t worry because a professional plumber can come out immediately to take care of the problem. Most plumbing companies offer 24/7 emergency services when you need them so they can usually come to you with very short notice.
Nevertheless, taking care of the problem after the fact is never preferable to preventing one in the first place. It is simply easier to take preventative measures than it is to take care of the problem after it has occurred, and it is much less expensive as well.
The Causes of a Frozen Outdoor Faucet or Pipe
If you’ve ever wondered what causes a frozen outdoor faucet or pipe, it is really quite easy to understand. Whenever temperatures drop below freezing and there’s standing water inside of a pipe or an outdoor faucet, that water is going to freeze. This is certain to wreak havoc on your plumbing system and even on your life, which is why preventative measures should be taken so this doesn’t happen.
As long as the water isn’t frozen, it is going to flow freely through all of your pipes and not get stuck. On the other hand, when the water freezes, it will expand and turn into large chunks of ice that will block your pipes and cause them to be inoperable. And again, once the temperature gets below freezing, i.e., below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, this is always a possibility.
And even people who live in warmer clients can experience freezing temperatures occasionally so it’s good to know what causes frozen pipes and what to do to avoid this scenario.
Some Additional Tips
An important tip when you’re trying to thaw out your faucets or pipes is to never perform the thawing-out task near any type of open flame. This includes not only blow torches but also propane heaters, charcoal stoves, or anything else that might be hot as you’re trying to work around it. Not only could it possibly start a fire but it can also damage the pipe itself.
Here are some additional tips and suggestions to keep in mind as you’re attempting to thaw out frozen outdoor faucets and pipes:
- Know where the shut-off valve is to your home. If your pipes burst, the first thing you’ll need to do is close this shut-off valve and you’ll have to know where that valve is first so you can shut it off quickly.
- Know the risks involved with thawing out your pipes so you are more careful. These risks include burst pipes and fires. Again, you can reduce these risks if you know how.
- Learn additional methods that can help reduce the risk of your pipes and faucets freezing, including letting the water drip slightly 24 hours a day when it’s freezing outside, keeping your heating system on, keeping all of the doors inside of your home open, adding extra insulation around your home, and sealing up any holes or cracks that may cause the cold air to freeze up your pipes more quickly.
- If the pipes or faucets do burst or crack, you will have to replace them immediately. After all, you need your plumbing system in order for your home to function properly so burst or broken pipes and faucets should always be taken care of as soon as possible.