Prevent Frozen Pipes and Costly Damages with Tips from Starkville Utilities

Simple, affordable strategies can prevent plumbing disasters during cold weather

While you’re bundling up to stay warm this winter, also make sure your plumbing is prepared for freezing weather by taking steps to protect pipes.

“Burst pipes are a common cause of property damage in the winter, but thankfully the problem can be avoided easily and affordably,” said Terry Kemp, general manager of Starkville Utilities. “By following a few simple strategies around homes and yards, customers can save money in the long run and keep plumbing systems running safely during freezing weather.”

When water freezes, it expands and creates tremendous pressure that can damage metal and plastic pipes, especially those exposed to severe cold or located in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, and kitchen cabinets.

One of the most well-known tips—letting cold water drip from faucets served by exposed pipes —is also one of the most effective. Running water through the pipe, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing.

Here are additional tips from the American Red Cross to protect pipes from freezing and prevent damage to homes and plumbing systems:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines and do not put antifreeze in lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful and dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces to maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
  • Check other unheated spaces that contain water supply lines, such as in garages and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Insulate both hot and cold-water pipes in these areas.
  • Consider using pipe sleeves, heat tape, heat cable or similar materials to insulate exposed water pipes. Newspaper provides some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes.
  • Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.
  • Keep garage doors closed if the garage contains water supply lines.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children.
  • If you plan to be away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

How to thaw frozen pipes

  • 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 flowing through the frozen area, which will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat 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 cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  • Check all faucets in your home. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
“Providing safe, affordable and reliable utility services is only part of the equation in serving customers,” Kemp said. “Through our Renew Principle commitment, we’re expanding our relationship with customers by helping them take action to protect their investments and maintain their utility systems in top condition.”

Starkville Utilities is a public utility serving 14,000 residences, businesses and industries in Starkville, Mississippi as well as Mississippi State University. Its mission is to supply safe, reliable, and cost-effective electric and water service of superior quality and value that improves the lives of its customers.

We are a Water and Electric Utilities Company in Starkville