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Give Your Pipes the TLC They Need: Tips for sick plumbing this winter

During the winter months, keeping track of your pipes well-being can save your home, and wallet, a lot of heartache. In cold weather, your pipes can "catch a cold," get stopped up and leak all over the place. Think of it as a flu for your plumbing. "Frozen pipes can be a costly problem if proper precautions are not taken," states Mary Kennedy Thompson, president of Mr. Rooter Corporation. "Often times, homeowners find themselves dealing with burst pipes in the midst of freezing temperatures." Mr. Rooter gives these tips for preventing frozen pipes along with a helpful repair guide in the case of burst pipes. Here are 5 simple tips that will help homeowners give their pipes some TLC (tender loving care): 1. Insulate your pipes: Cover faucets and exposed pipes with pipe insulation or wrap them in thick towels. 2. Wrap your water heater with an approved manufacturer's blanket. 3. Open cabinet doors in your kitchen and bathroom. This allows heat to circulate and keeps interior pipes warm. 4. Keep faucets running. A small trickle of water or a constant drip is recommended when temperatures drop below freezing for more than 24-hours. 5. Don't set thermostat lower than 55 degrees when traveling. Ask a neighbor to check on your house during below freezing temperatures. If your pipes were unable to handle the winter weather, here are 5 tips to guide your pipe reparations: 1. Locate the main water shut-off valve and know how to use it in the case of frozen or burst pipes. If your pipes freeze, turn off your water. 2. Open the nearest faucet to allow water to drain as the ice melts. Water flow will also help to warm the pipes. 3. Have a hair dryer handy, in case your pipes do freeze. Heat the exterior of the pipe with the hair dryer by slowly applying the heat and moving the dryer constantly. 4. Try wrapping a hot, wet towel around the pipes. Heat using the microwave in 30-second increments until thoroughly heated. (Never use open flames, as there are numerous risks associated with this, including fire, pipes bursting and scalding you with boiling water and carbon monoxide poisoning.) 5. One final option is to wrap a heating pad around the frozen pipes. When doing this, be sure to have a pad which is able to work in wet conditions. Do not use an electric heating pad as the moisture could cause electrical problems. If you're not a do-it-yourselfer or your pipes burst, be sure to call a qualified plumber. "We'll be available 24/7 to help those having a plumbing emergency," Thompson said. "This can be a stressful time for homeowners, and we understand the urgency they feel."