There are steps you can take to avoid frozen pipes during this weekend's brutal cold.
Dedham resident Heather Dearborn shovels out after a snow storm in October 2014. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Maine is going to experience record low temperatures late this week, and with those frigid conditions comes the risk of frozen water pipes.

While not life-threatening, frozen or burst water pipes can leave you without running water and cause thousands of dollars in property damage.

Cracks as tiny as an eighth of an inch in a pipe can release up to 250 gallons of water a day, according to the Maine Emergency Management Agency. That’s enough to soak floors, rugs and furniture. 

Luckily, there are things you can do to protect your pipes from the cold and prevent those headaches and expenses in your home or apartment.

Insulate your pipes

If they are not already, now is the time to insulate any pipes running along outer walls, in crawl spaces or in attics. These are the ones most vulnerable to cold and windy conditions. Home improvement or hardware stores carry insulation made specifically for water pipes.

You also can wrap pipes in heated flexible cable called heat tape to keep the water in your pipes above freezing. Heat tape can be left on your pipes all year. Simply plug it in when the temperatures drop.

Check for leaks

Look for any air leaks or openings around your pipes, especially where they enter the residence. Seal those up to prevent cold, drafty air from hitting the pipes. Check for and repair any broken windows or damaged siding around your house that could let the cold air hit your pipes.

Let in the warmth

When the cold weather hits this weekend, open up cupboards and cabinets that have pipes running through or behind them. This will allow the heat from your home to reach those pipes.

Run your water

Allowing water to run out of your taps at a steady trickle will help prevent freezing. If you pay for water usage, this may add a bit to your bill, but it will be far less expensive than repairs to damages caused by burst water pipes.

Know how to shut off your water

Make sure everyone in your household knows where the main shut-off valve for your water is located. That way, in the event of a burst pipe, you can turn the water off until the pipes are repaired.

If your pipes do freeze, shut off the water at the main valve immediately.

Never use flames to defrost

Never try to thaw a frozen pipe using an open flame torch. You run the very real risk of causing a house fire. Instead, you can try using a blow dryer to warm the pipes. If that does not work, call in a professional plumber.

The good news is that once you take all the preventative measures, you are ready for all future cold snaps.

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Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.