You canít do anything about the weather this winter, but you can become aware of things that can go wrong with your plumbing system to save you from getting a headache (or brain freeze!) If you turn on a faucet and no water comes out, chances are the pipes have frozen. Donít panic! This happens when pipes are exposed to cold air such as in well houses, attics, or crawl spaces. If you have access to the pipes that have frozen you can warm them up using a heater, hair dryer, or warm damp rags. Exposing the pipes to warmer air by opening cabinets or the access panel to your attic is also an easy way to get them to thaw faster (or not freeze at all.)
As water freezes it expands, much like when you put a can of soda in the freezer and it explodes. If water is allowed to remain still in a pipe exposed to the cold air, the water may freeze solid and the pipe may burst. If the water continues to flow, even in a trickle, it won't have the opportunity to freeze and the pipes should survive until the air temperature warms above freezing. So open up a faucet or two when you know it is going to be a cold night. If your pipes froze over completely, we recommend doing the same thing to allow a place for the extra pressure to release. The faucet does not need to be turned on full bore; just enough to allow a trickle to come out once the pipes start to defrost.
If you do experience frozen pipes, make sure you know the location of your main water shut-off valve. In the unfortunate event that a pipe does burst it is crucial to be able to shut your water supply off as quickly as possible to prevent water damage.
Typically, here in the Northwest, we do not see homeowners have much trouble with frozen pipes until temperatures hit about 20ļF or less. Keep in mind that pipes exposed to colder air (especially flowing air, as on a windy day) because of cracks in an outside wall or lack of insulation are vulnerable to freezing at temperatures above that threshold.
Stay warm out there!