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Winter weather brings the threat of frozen pipes. These tips can help prevent your pipes from freezing.

Winter weather brings the threat of frozen pipes. The following tips can help prevent your pipes from freezing:

  • On extremely cold nights, open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
  • Let cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing because the temperature of the water running through it is above freezing.

If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. To safely and effectively thaw frozen water pipes, you must first diagnose where the pipe is frozen.

  • Start by checking water flow at every faucet in the house, including the bathtub faucets. This will help you determine the area of the blockage. If no water flows from the kitchen sink but the water in the bathroom sink works, then you are probably dealing with an isolated problem. Once you have figured out which faucets are affected by the frozen line you can figure out which pipe may be frozen.
  • Locate the main water shut-off valve, which could be located in the basement. It is important to shut off the water prior to thawing the pipes as a pipe may already have broken under the extreme pressure caused by the frozen line.
  • After the water is turned off, you have a few options to thaw the pipe. One is to use towels soaked in hot water. Wrap the frozen pipe with hot, wet towels and pour on additional hot water until the pipe has completely thawed. If the hot towel approach does not work, a hair dryer or heat gun may be the next solution. Turn on the hair dryer or heat gun and work up and down the length of the frozen line. Once the water starts to thaw and trickle out of the faucet and if you are sure the blockage hasn’t caused a broken pipe, you can turn the main water supply back on. Keep working with the heat source and keep the water faucet turned on until full water pressure is restored.

If no water flows from any of the faucets in the house, you are probably dealing with a frozen water service line that supplies water to the house. Turn on all faucets in the sinks and bathtub and turn off the main water supply. Follow the suggestions above but apply the heat directly to the pipe that enters the house.

Never use a heat source with an open flame, such as a blowtorch or propane heater, to thaw a frozen water line, as an open flame in a home can present a serious fire hazard as well as the possibility of exposure to carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, excessive heat from a blowtorch applied to a frozen pipe can cause the water inside the pipe to boil and possibly explode.

If you have optional HomeServe water service line coverage, frozen water lines are covered. If you are interested in more information on HomeServe, visit: or call 1 (855) 695-1493.

If your pipes have frozen once, chances are they will freeze again. Before the onset of cold weather, help prevent freezing of your water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:

  • Cover the pipes in your attic, crawl spaces, and unheated garage with pipe insulation, heat tape or heat cables. Make sure you use material safe for pipe insulation. The more insulation you use, the better your pipes will be protected.
  • Disconnect garden hoses and store them indoors during the winter. Cover your outdoor faucets with faucet covers, or wrap them in old rags and cover with plastic. If possible, drain water from pipes leading to outdoor faucets by shutting off the indoor valve.
  • Set the thermostat no lower than 55ºF (12ºC) if you are leaving your home for an extended period of time. Turn off the water and drain your pipes.
  • Reminder for Winter Vacationers: Contact a Des Moines Water Works Customer Service Representative at (515) 283-8700 with your departure date if you would like to request that your water be shut off while you’re gone. If you plan to leave your water on while you are gone, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to periodically check your home.
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