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Here's how to keep your pipes from freezing this winter

Frigid temperatures can lead to frozen or burst pipes.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Each year during extreme cold weather, hundreds of thousands of people experience frozen and/or burst water lines... but why?

Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal and plastic pipes. 

According to the Red Cross, no matter the strength of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break.

First, let's take a look at where the pipes that freeze most frequently are:

  • Pipes that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose valves, swimming pool lines and water sprinkler lines.
  • Water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages or kitchen cabinets.
  • Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation.

Now that you know which pipes could be troublesome, let's find out how to prevent them from freezing. 

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Louisville Water said to avoid a costly mess, focus on eliminating the amount of cold air that's coming into your home around the water pipes. 

To do this, they said you can:

They said that when cold weather hits, run a small steady stream of water from your cold water faucets, especially in areas where pipes are exposed or have frozen in the past.

"This prevents the water from freezing since it's constantly flowing," Louisville Water said. 

But if you don't feel like running water, you can try opening the cabinet doors to let heat surround the pipes.

Regardless of the weather, Louisville Water said to make sure you know where to find the water shut-off valve, it controls the flow of water into your entire house. 

It's usually located near the water heater, in the basement or in a utility closet. 

If your pipes do burst, turning off the water can minimize the damage to your home.

Louisville Water suggests tagging the valve with a waterproof hanger or ribbon. They said customers can get free tags that customers from their downtown office.

Credit: WHAS11
Protecting you home pipes from cold

Though the water company said, sometimes, despite all your preparation, your pipes may freeze anyway. 

If you turn on a faucet and only a little comes out, your pipe is probably frozen. 

Here's what to do according to the Red Cross:

  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, a hair dryer, portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. 
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you can't get to the frozen pipe, or if you can't thaw it, call a licensed plumber.

Also check all other faucets in your home to see if any additional pipes froze. If one pipe freezes, others may too.

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