Mt. Laurel Municipal Utilities Authority promotes tips to prevent or thaw frozen pipes this winter

The Mt. Laurel Municipal Utilities Authority has released the following tips to help residents prevent costly repairs.

With freezing temperatures now here this season in Mt. Laurel, the Mt. Laurel Municipal Utilities Authority has released the following tips to help residents prevent costly repairs by protecting their pipes from freezing.

According to MUA officials, each year the MUA responds to many service calls for frozen pipes, often they are in homes that are heated and occupied. Frequently pipes are in an area where there isn’t enough insulation or they don’t get enough heat.

According to MUA officials, residents can help prevent frozen pipes by taking a few simple precautions.

· Disconnect and drain outdoor hoses.

· Insulate pipes or faucets in unheated areas including crawl spaces.

· Use properly applied heat tape or pipe insulation to keep pipes warm.

· Seal off access doors, air vents and cracks.

· Find the master shut off. It may be near the water heater or the washing machine, and most likely it’s where the water line comes into a house from the street. If a pipe bursts, this valve will turn off the water throughout the house.

According to MUA officials, following these few simple precautions might save residents hundreds of dollars in costly repairs. Officials also note that a small trickle of water flowing through an indoor faucet could help in preventing pipes from freezing in some situations.

For pipes that do become froze, the MUA advises that residents that residents take swift action to thaw it, as frozen pipes have the potential to burst. If the water pipe does burst, it can cause serious damage and flooding in a property. The location of the frozen pipe and one’s level of experience will determine if one may be able to thaw the pipe yourself or if one may need to hire a professional to do so.

Locate the Frozen Pipe

In order to thaw a frozen pipe, one must first determine which pipe or pipes are frozen. Turn on the faucets in the property. If no water comes out, or only a slight trickle escapes, then a pipe leading to the faucet is likely frozen. If one pipe is frozen, there is a chance others have frozen also. If the pipes are exposed, such as pipes under sinks, in basements or along the exterior of the house, one may be able to visually see the frozen portion of the pipe. Frozen pipes often have frost on them or may have a slight bulge. If the blockage is located in part of the pipe that one has access to, residents will have more options for easily thawing the pipe than if the frozen portion is enclosed behind a wall.

Open the Faucet

Before one begins attempting to thaw a frozen pipe, one will want to open the faucet that the pipe feeds water into. Make sure to open both the hot and cold handles. This will help to alleviate pressure in the system and will allow the water to escape once one begins to thaw the pipe.

Where to Begin the Thawing Process

Regardless of the method one chooses to thaw the pipe, one should always begin the thawing process near the faucet then work down to the blockage. This will help ensure that the melting ice and steam is able to escape through the open faucet. If one starts the thawing process closer to the blockage, the melting ice could get stuck behind the blockage, creating more pressure in the pipe and increasing the chances the pipe will burst.

Tips for Thawing Exposed Pipes

If the frozen pipe is located in an area one can readily access, a resident has several options for attempting to thaw the pipe. One should continue to apply the heat until the water escaping from the faucet returns to full strength. Here are four options for thawing an exposed pipe:

• Hair Dryer –One of the easiest ways to thaw a pipe is by using a hair dryer. Simply turn the dryer on and point the heat at the pipe, beginning with the portion closest to the faucet. As with any electrical product, take the proper precautions and avoid coming into contact with water when operating the device.

• Heat Lamp or Portable Space Heater –Another method to thaw the pipe is to use a heat lamp or portable space heater. Position the device so that the heat is able to reach the frozen pipe. This indirect heat can help to quickly thaw a pipe. Again, make sure to comply with the safety measures and precautions on the device being used. Ensure the device is not in an area where it will not come in contact with water.

• Hot Towels –Another way to thaw a frozen pipe is to wrap towels that have been dipped in hot water around the pipe. This can help to slowly thaw the blockage.

• Electrical Heating Tape –A final option is to apply electrical heating tape directly to the pipe. This tape distributes heat throughout the pipe. Residents can purchase electrical heating tape that one can plug in and unplug as needed or one can purchase heating tape that shuts off on its own.

Tips for Thawing Enclosed Pipes

If the frozen pipe is located in an area that one cannot easily access, residents have a couple of options for thawing the pipe.

• Turn the Heat Up in the Property — One can attempt to thaw the frozen pipe by increasing the temperature in the property. Turning the thermostat up may be all that is needed to allow the ice blockage to melt.

• Infrared Lamp — If one knows where in the wall the frozen pipe is located, residents can attempt to thaw the blockage by placing an infrared lamp in front of the portion of the wall where the pipe is located. The heat from the lamp may be able to penetrate the wall and allow the pipe to defrost.

• Cut Out a Section of the Wall — If a residents is comfortable doing so, they can cut out the section of the drywall in front of the frozen pipe so that one can more easily access the pipe. One can then use one of the methods for thawing out an enclosed pipe listed above.

Things to Avoid

Never attempt to thaw a pipe using an open flame, such as a propane torch. This can not only damage the pipe, it can also start a fire in one’s property.

If the Pipe Bursts

If a frozen water pipe does burst, the first thing one should do is shut off the main water line into one’s property. This will prevent additional water from flowing and damaging the property. One should know where the shut-off valves are for each property and for each unit. There are usually smaller shutoff valves located near sinks and toilets, but the main shut-off valve is often located near the water meter.

• Call a Professional — If one is unable to thaw the pipe, unable to locate the frozen pipe, and does not feel comfortable thawing a pipe oneself or if a pipe bursts, that resident should call a professional. They will be able to remedy the problem.

Residents are invited to read this information and more online by visiting and going to the alerts page.