West Des Moines Water Works
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Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes 


Winter weather brings cold temperatures and the threat of frozen pipes. The following tips will help prevent your pipes from freezing:

• Use space heaters or heat tape/cable in cold or drafty areas to prevent pipes from freezing.
• Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
• Let cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing because the temperature of the water running through it is above freezing.

If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. To safely and effectively thaw frozen water pipes, you must first diagnose where the pipe is frozen. Water Works is unable to help identify the location of a frozen pipe.

1. Start by checking water flow at every faucet in the house, including the bathtub faucets. This will help you determine the area of the blockage. If no water flows from the kitchen sink but the water in the bathroom sink works, then you are probably dealing with an isolated problem. Once you have figured out which faucets are affected by the frozen line you can figure out which pipe may be frozen.

2. Locate the main water shut-off valve, which could be located in the basement before and/or after the water meter. It is important to shut off the water prior to thawing the pipes as a pipe may already have broken under the extreme pressure caused by the frozen line.

3. Now that the water is turned off, you have a few options to thaw the pipe. One is to use towels soaked in hot water. Wrap the frozen pipe with hot, wet towels and pour on additional hot water until the pipe has completely thawed. If the hot towel approach does not work, a space heater or hair dryer may be the next solution. Turn on the dryer and work up and down the length of the frozen line. Once the water starts to thaw and trickle out of the faucet, if you are sure the blockage hasn’t caused a broken pipe, you can turn the main water supply back on. Keep working with the heat source and keep the water faucet turned on until full water pressure is restored. In addition, most local plumbing companies can also help unfreeze pipes

Never use a heat source with an open flame, such as a blowtorch or propane heater, to thaw a frozen water line as an open flame in a home can present a serious fire hazard as well as the possibility of exposure to carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, excessive heat from a blowtorch applied to a frozen pipe can cause the water inside the pipe to boil and possibly explode.

If you notice water coming from your water meter, it is possible the water froze inside the water meter. In this case, you will need to have your water meter replaced. Please call customer service at 222-3460 to have the meter replaced. Meters cannot be replaced until all pipes have thawed.