How not to thaw frozen pipes

 (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Two fires in Kent County are sparked as residents were trying to thaw frozen water pipes.

Delaware fire officials are warning you to use extreme caution when trying to thaw frozen pipes with any type of heating device. The word of warning comes after two homes caught fire while residents were trying to thaw their pipes Tuesday night.

The first fire started just after 9 p.m. Tuesday at a manufactured home on Stardust Drive west of Dover. The home’s residents were trying to use a kerosene fueled heater to thaw the pipes under the home. The heater ignited combustible materials under the mobile home.

Members of the Cheswold Fire Company found heavy fire at the home when they arrived. The fire caused an estimated $7,500 in damage.

Less than two hours later, members of the Magnolia Fire Company responded to a similarly caused fire in the London Village Development in Magnolia. That fire was caused when the home’s occupant was using a hand held heating device to thaw frozen pipes. That effort also ignited combustible material under the home. Damages in that fire were estimated at $25,000.

No one was injured in either fire. The Red Cross is assisting residents from both homes.

Tips to keep pipes from freezing

The national Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety says the best way to reduce risk of frozen pipes is not letting them freeze in the first place.  Once the pipes freeze, water pressure can build up causing the pipes to burst at their weakest point.  

They recommend the following tips to keep pipes from freezing:

Fit exposed pipes with insulation sleeves or wrapping to slow the heat transfer. The more insulation the better;
Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes with caulking;
Keep cabinet doors open during cold spells to allow warm air to circulate around pipes (particularly in the kitchen and bathroom);
Keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets connected to pipes that run through an unheated or unprotected space. Or drain the water system, especially if your house will be unattended during cold periods.

If it’s already too late to prevent freezing, and you discover frozen pipes at your home, plumbing experts have a number of tips to thaw them out.  Horizon Services, a regional plumbing, heating and air conditioning company founded in Delaware recommends the following steps if you find frozen pipes:

If your indoor faucets freeze:

Leave the cabinet doors under the faucets open so that they can get more heat;
If it gets intensely cold, run a little bit of water from each valve in the house each day. Let the water trickle very slowly into the sink;
Heat every room of your home, not just a few rooms. Allow warm air to circulate freely throughout your house.

If your pipes freeze, break or crack:

Turn off the water at the main shut-off valve so that you don’t have problems as the ice melts.
Leave the faucets on to relieve pressure as the ice melts.
Use a blow dryer or heat gun to thaw frozen pipes.
DO NOT use any torches or open flames to thaw pipes.

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