STEPS TO PROTECT YOUR WATER PIPES:
1. Insulate all exposed outdoor and attic pipes with weather-resistant material. Insulating foam tubing designed for pipes is easy to install and inexpensive. Make sure all surfaces of the pipe are covered.
2. Use insulating faucet covers, or wrap rags, paper, trash bags or plastic foam around outdoor faucets. Installing pressure-relief valves on outdoor faucets also helps prevent bursting of pipes that freeze.
3. Temporarily cover any vents around your home’s foundation.
4. Bring water hoses indoors.
5. Open the cabinets under the sinks in your kitchen and bathrooms to allow heated indoor air to circulate around water pipes.
6. If you normally set back your thermostat at night or when away from home, change the setting to keep some heat on until the severe freeze is over.
7. Insulate your outdoor water meter box and be sure its lid is on tight.
8. If your home has exposed pipes and a severe freeze is expected, let faucets run at a slow trickle, but don’t run a big stream of water. Too many running faucets in an area can cause drops in community water pressure and problems for firefighters responding to emergencies.
9. If you plan to leave town, consider turning off your water at the shut-off valve while faucets are running to drain your pipes. (Make sure the faucets are turned off before you turn the shut-off valve back on.)
10. If you drain your pipes, contact your electric or gas utility for instructions on protecting your water heater.
11. Be sure everyone in your household knows where the main water shut-off valve is and check it to make sure it isn’t stuck.
12. If an extended and deep freeze is expected, insulation alone may not be sufficient. Consider installing electric heat tape or cable with a built-in thermostat. Be sure the heat tape bears an Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL) seal and is in good condition. Do not overlap the tape when wrapping it around a pipe.
IF PIPES FREEZE:
If your pipes do freeze, turn off your water at the main shut-off valve. Call a plumber for help. Don't use a blowtorch or other flame source, heat lamps or electrical appliances to thaw frozen pipes. Intense heat could cause steam pressure build-up and an explosion.
If you try to thaw your own pipes, apply heat slowly, moving it toward the coldest spot on the pipe. Never concentrate heat in one spot. Cracking ice can shatter a pipe. A relatively safe and effective method is to wrap towels around the frozen section of pipe and pour hot water over them.
Notes prepared by Claudette Reichel, former LSU AgCenter housing specialist.