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Thaw-Out Could Cause Broken Pipes


Tuesday, temperatures throughout southern Colorado are going to climb above freezing for the first time in almost a week.

Though the warm-up is a relief to many after dealing with several single-digit days, it could cause plumbing problems for homeowners.

When the temperatures drop below freezing, water inside pipes can freeze and expand. If water expands too much, it can crack the pipe, and also cause an ice blockage which in turns causes water pressure to increase further down the pipe. The damage often goes unnoticed until the weather warms up and the water thaws--causing pipes to burst.

The pipes most at risk are those that aren't protected along their entire length by the building insulation or insulation on the actual pipe itself.

Here are some warning signs that you may be dealing with a broken pipe:

-If you lost water anytime during the freeze
-If your water pressure is low or erratic
-If water is leaking from the walls or pooling somewhere
-Change in wall color (could be early warning sign of a leak)
-If your pipes are making strange noises
-If you detect an odd odor
-Water discoloration

If you have any of these warning signs, call a plumber right away.

The Red Cross also lists the follow steps to thaw a frozen pipe to prevent it from bursting:

-If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.

-Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.

-Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.

-Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.

-Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

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