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The right and wrong ways to deal with frozen pipes

By By Caleb James, Reporter
Published On: Jan 30 2013 03:00:42 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 15 2013 12:39:45 PM CST

Caleb James reports.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

It's been another cold night in eastern Idaho and western Wyoming. 

The coming days are expected to be cold, too.  

If water pipes freeze in this weather, it can be a nightmare for home owners. If the water inside the pipes expands, the pipe can explode.

Taking care of the problem correctly can save a homeowner a lot of trouble, but doing it the wrong way can cost a lot more than a pipe or two.

"We have a lot of frozen water lines," said Larry Christensen. 

It's Christensen's job to know what goes on inside a water line.  He's the distribution foreman for the Idaho Falls Water Department.

"If it starts to get below 0, it will start freezing lines near the wall where there's no insulation," said Christensen. "If it gets a little bit colder for the next couple of nights, we'll start seeing them frozen in the streets." 

For now it's the smaller lines inside homes falling victim.

"We had 10 today that were frozen," said Christensen. "They were all on the owner's side of the service line."

A frozen pipe can lead to a major flood once the frozen pipes thaw and release water. Sunrise Cleaning and Restoration owner Mike Toombs has seen his share of floods from exploding pipes already this winter.

"About a half a dozen, maybe 8," said Toombs. "It can get very expensive. It can be anywhere between $2,000 to $3,000 to $20,000 or $30,000."

Both experts said the real catastrophe comes when homeowners take matters into their own hands the wrong way.

"Don't use anything that's got a torch or a flame," said Christensen. 

On Saturday in Idaho Falls, a home suffered $80,000 in damage when the owners tried to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame.

To prevent and treat frozen pipes effectively, Christensen and Toombs suggest: 

1. Run a trickle of water at a steady stream throughout the day and night. It may seem wasteful, but it could prevent a major incident which could lead to much more water waste and major damage.

2. If leaving the house for an extended period of time, have water shut off. During the winter, there's usually no reason to leave it on, especially because sprinkler systems are not in use.

3. Invest in pipe insulation.

4. If a pipe is already freezing, you can use a hair dryer to thaw it. But remember, no open flame. 

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