Prevent Frozen Pipes during the Polar Vortex

Love it or hate it, the polar vortex is about to blast North America with its frosty temperatures. Every winter sees thousands of homeowners with homes damaged by ruptured, frozen pipes, causing flooding and more. When pipes become frozen, they swell up, causing bulges and cracks. At times, frozen pipes might even look fine on the outside, as not all leaks are visible, however, the moment they are thawed, they start pouring water into the home, damaging walls, floors and ceilings.

It doesn't take much for exposed pipes to freeze, and when they do, it can lead to major headaches.

Diagnosing Frozen Pipes

The first sign of a frozen pipe is usually lower-than-normal water pressure. If you notice this, check your pipes. A blockage can also cause a backup to worsen the situation.

Frozen pipes that are visible under the counter or inside cabinets may even have frost accumulation on the outside.

If you have no water, that's already a sign of serious plumbing trouble, and that's why we recommend that you properly winterize your plumbing before the polar vortex arrives in full force.

The American Red Cross shared some tips on how homeowners can prevent frozen pipes:

  • Drain sprinkler supply lines and swimming pools using the directions provided by the installer or manufacturer.
  • Drain, remove and store hoses, and close valves that supply the hose bibs. Allow the outside hose bibs to drain by leaving the outside valves open.
  • Locate all water supply lines in unheated areas, such as the attic, under the bathroom and kitchen cabinets, in crawl spaces and in the basement. Insulate both the hot and cold water pipes in the unheated areas.
  • Install heat cable or other insulation materials on exposed water pipes.

Prevention Beats Heating Frozen Pipes

Last year saw many homes flooded as the result of frozen pipes, and some homes burned down when owners tried to thaw the pipes using open flame. There are many precautions that you can take right now to prevent frozen pipes and save yourself the hassle and the risks associated with thawing your water supply lines.

1. Heating Cables

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes during the Polar Vortex
Heating cables can help to prevent damage before it occurs.

Heating cables deliver an effective freeze protection system, which works in conjunction with an energy saving thermostat. It turns on when the temperature inside your pipes drops below freezing. This in-line heating system protects your drain pipes and water supply using self-regulating cables and constant wattage.

2. Freeze Free Cable Plug

Designed to protect your plastic or metal residential water supply, the freeze free cable plug is installed in drain pipes that might be vulnerable to freezing, as well as water supply lines located underneath buildings that are not used on a regular basis.

3. Pipe Freeze Prevention In-Line Heater

The inline heater cable is ideal for preventing frozen pipes that form part of potable water supply lines to homes from springs or reservoirs.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes


Step 1: Open the faucet on the frozen line to help start melting the ice and relieve pressure.

Step 2: Heat your frozen pipe, using one of these safe options:

  • Soak towels in hot water and wrap them around the pipe.
  • Apply a handheld hair dryer to the frozen section of pipe (ensure that the electrical socket is grounded!)
  • Apply electrical heating tape (ensure that the electrical socket is grounded!)

As a general rule, on extremely cold nights, allow cold water to gently trickle from the kitchen faucet, as moving water won't freeze, and keep warm air circulating in the home.

If, after taking all these precautions, you still have frozen pipes, please call us at 416-231-3331 We use advanced methods to thaw frozen pipes safely and efficiently.

Written by Tanya Klien

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