How to prevent, manage frozen pipes caused by southwestern Illinois winter storm

As residents in southwestern Illinois and St. Louis deal with severe winter weather and dangerous wind chills, taking steps to prevent frozen pipes can be crucial.

According to State Farm, Illinois has the third-highest damage costs related to frozen pipe damage, at $10.8 million in 2022. According to the insurance company, just one inch of crack in a pipe can spill more than 250 gallons of water per day.

Here are some tips for preventing your pipes from freezing, as well as information about thawing frozen pipes and dealing with burst pipes.

Prevent pipes from freezing

Leaving your faucet to drip overnight can help protect your pipes from freezing. It can also be helpful to open cabinet doors to allow heat to reach uninsulated pipes, especially near exterior walls.

State Farm also recommends sealing any leaks that allow cold air to enter. Set your thermostat to at least 55 degrees, even if you're out of town during a winter storm. Ensuring that your home maintains an appropriate temperature can help protect your pipes.

You may also want to consider shutting off and draining your water system when you are out of town. However, keep in mind that this may disable your fire sprinkler system if you have one.

How to thaw frozen pipes

If only a trickle of water comes out when you turn on the faucet in winter weather, the pipes may be frozen.

According to the American Red Cross, pipes may be more susceptible to freezing if they are located near exterior walls or if your water supply enters your home through the foundation.

Here's what the American Red Cross advises residents to do to thaw their frozen pipes:

  1. Keep the faucet open. Running water through the pipe helps melt the ice.

  2. Apply heat to the frozen section of pipe by wrapping it with towels soaked in hot water or using an electric heating pad, hair dryer, or portable space heater (keep away from flammable materials). Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or any device with an open flame.

  3. Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you cannot find the frozen area, if it is inaccessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, you should call a licensed plumber.

  4. Check the other faucets in your home. If one is frozen, others can freeze too.

What to do if your pipes burst?

According to Chicago-area company Rescue Plumbing, there are several steps you can take to limit the damage to your home if your pipes have burst. First, it is important to shut off water access to your home.

Once you've turned off the water, you can release the water pressure by draining it. You can do this by flushing the toilet and leaving the faucets open.

If the pipe burst near an electrical panel, you may need to turn off the power. Avoid operating electrical appliances near standing water.

After removing your belongings to contain the water damage, you can determine whether contacting a licensed plumber or electrician may be necessary.

Tips for Protecting Your Home in Dangerously Cold Temperatures in Southwest Illinois

Warming centers are available in the Greater East area for people seeking protection from the freezing temperatures

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