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Tips on dealing with frozen pipes

Matthew Lane • Jan 28, 2019 at 8:30 PM

KINGSPORT — Winter is coming back with a vengeance today as an arctic cold front sweeps across the Tennessee Valley and the southern Appalachians, bringing with it up to 4 inches of snow and plenty of headaches for area motorists.

And though you may have other pressing matters before you today, it’s actually the perfect time to double-check your water pipes and make sure they’re well-insulated. Hopefully, it’s not too late.

One unique property of water is that it expands as it freezes and no matter how strong the pipe is, enough expansion and pressure can cause metal and plastic pipes to crack and break.

The pipes most likely to freeze are ones exposed to the severe cold, such as outdoor faucets, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinklers and water pipes in areas like basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages and kitchen cabinets. Pipes running against exterior walls with little to no insulation are also subject to freezing.

Older houses and mobile homes are especially susceptible to freezing pipes.

According to State Farm insurance, when it came to frozen pipe claims in 2018, Tennessee was the fourth-highest state in the nation. Illinois came in number one.

The latest data shows more than 800 claims were paid in Tennessee for winter water losses, including frozen pipes. State Farm reports that the total payout for Tennessee claims reached more than $15 million, with the average cost per claim amounting to just over $19,000.

Here are some tips from State Farm to help prevent your pipes from freezing during the winter months.

• WHEN TEMPERATURES DROP:

• A trickle of hot and cold water might be all it takes to keep your pipes from freezing. Let warm water drip overnight, preferably from a faucet on an outside wall.

• Keep your thermostat set at the same temperature during both day and night.

• Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.

• BEFORE YOU TRAVEL:

• Set the thermostat in your house no lower than 55°F (12°C).

• Ask a friend or neighbor to check your house daily to make sure it's warm enough to prevent freezing.

• Shut off and drain the water system.

• IF YOU EXPERIENCE FROZEN PIPES:

• If you turn on your faucets and nothing comes out, leave the faucets turned on and call a plumber.

• To avoid electrocution, do not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water.

• Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame because it could cause a fire hazard.

• You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe using a hair dryer. Start by warming the pipe as close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe.

• 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. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the water shutoff valve is and how to open and close it.

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