-by Lynda Lambert, AAA Safety Advisor & Media Spokesperson

With a cold snap in the forecast and temperatures predicted in the single-digits, pipes are at risk of freezing due to sudden temperature drops, poor insulation, or incorrect thermostat settings.  AAA East Central offers suggestions that can help prevent your pipes from freezing and bursting, which can cause significant damage and expense.

“During the cold winter months, we receive many insurance claims from homeowners and renters who fall victim to frozen pipes,” says Mark Sisson, vice president of insurance for AAA East Central.  “All pipes, whether plastic or copper, can burst, and even a small crack can spew hundreds of gallons of water per day.  That can lead to some very expensive damage.”

AAA Tips for Preventing Frozen Pipes:

  • Make sure everyone in your family knows where the water shut-off valve is, and how it works.
  • When a freeze is expected, consider allowing warm water to drip slightly overnight, preferably from a faucet on an outside wall.  Even a slight trickle may keep your pipes from freezing.
  • When there is the possibility of a freeze, don’t turn down the thermostat at bedtime, and instead maintain the same setting day and night. Drops in temperature, which are more common overnight, could freeze your pipes.
  • Open cabinet doors. This will allow heat to reach uninsulated pipes located under sinks.
  • Insulate pipes in your home's crawl spaces and attic, even if you live in an area where freezing temperatures are unlikely.
  • Seal leaks around pipes that allow cold air inside.  You also should look for air leaks around electrical wiring, clothes dryer vents and pipes. Use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out.
  • Disconnect garden hoses.  If possible, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets.  This reduces the chance that pipes inside the house will freeze.

Recovering from Frozen Pipes:

  • If you turn on your faucets and nothing comes out, your pipes are likely frozen.
  • You may be able to use a hair dryer to thaw a frozen pipe. Begin by warming the section of pipe closest to the faucet, then work your way out toward the coldest part of the pipe.
  • Never use a hair dryer or any electrical appliances in areas of standing water.  You could be electrocuted.
  • Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame.  It could cause a fire.
  • If your water pipes have already burst, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve in the house, leave the water faucets turned on, and call a plumber.

AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 80 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members.  News releases are available at news.eastcentral.aaa.com.  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.