This is some crazy weather we've got going on here in Tucson. The National Weather Service has put a "Hard Freeze Warning" in effect starting at 11 pm tonight and continuing on through 8 am tomorrow. That means that temperatures are expected to drop to 28F or lower for several hours. At that temperature, water pipes left out in the elements can freeze and burst. More below freezing weather is expected in our area over the weekend. If you haven't had any trouble with your water pipes up until now, count yourself lucky. Then, go and protect your water pipes from the harsh winter weather right now.
Winterizing Water Pipes
Ideally, this should be done before sub-freezing temperatures hit Tucson. But, it's better to start winterizing your winter pipes now rather than waiting for a pipe to burst. Protect your water pipes from the harsh elements by wrapping them with pipe insulation. This includes any pipes underneath the house that may be touched by cold weather. Big box stores carry both foil and foam wrap varieties. In a pinch, you could duct tape towels or blankets around the pipes. However, the pipe wrap insulation works better and is less bulky. Don't forget to insulate your main shut-off valve as well.
Check your irrigation system owner's manual to find out how to shut it down and get water out of the system. If water is left inside during extended periods of below freezing temperatures, it could freeze. Frozen water expands and may break the pipe, creating an expensive problem to fix later. Unsure how to do all of this? Contact any landscaping service in the area. They should be able to blow out your irrigation system for you. Unhook any hoses from exterior water faucets and store them in your garage. Just make sure they are completely devoid of water before you do put them away for the winter.
What about your interior faucets? Anything that gets fed water from an exposed exterior pipe could be subject to freezing. Open the interior tap just enough to allow a slow drip to eke out of it. This helps alleviate any pressure build-up from the outside.
What to Do if Your Pipes Freeze or Burst
First of all, don't pour hot water over frozen pipes in an attempt to defrost them. This will cause more harm than good. Same goes for using a blow torch or other open flame. Instead, take a hair dryer and blow warm air onto the frozen areas. The frozen water needs to warm up gradually. Make sure you turn your faucets to the "on" position to allow water to trickle through.
In the case of a burst pipe, go to the main shut-off valve and turn off the water to your Tucson home. Don't know where the main shut-off is located? Go to the water meter and shut it off there. Then, call a plumber or the Customer Service Department at Tucson Water. Tucson Water can be reached during office hours (8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday) by calling (520) 794-3242. Their after-hours line for emergencies is (520) 794-4133.
It's not too late to winterize your water pipes. Keep them protected from sub-freezing temperatures. This reduces the chances of frozen water damaging them which can cost thousands of dollars to fix. Stay warm!