TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- With temperatures predicted to drop below zero this weekend and stay under freezing for the next several days, AAA is reminding homeowners to protect their pipes during the bone-chilling cold.
The organization calls frozen and burst pipes one "(o)ne of the biggest cold weather menaces" and says they are mainly attributable to sudden drops in temperature, poor insulation, or thermostats set too low.
"Both plastic and copper pipes can burst, and recovering from frozen pipes is not as simple as calling a plumber," said Tom Beidleman, Vice President of Insurance for AAA.
"A 1/8-inch crack in a pipe can spew up to 250 gallons of water a day, causing flooding, serious structural damage, and the potential for mold."
They offer some ideas to protect your pipes ahead of time, including:
• Seal leaks around pipes that allow cold air inside. Look for air leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents and pipes; use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out.
• Disconnect garden hoses. If possible, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in pipes just inside the house.
• If a deep freeze is expected, let warm water drip overnight, preferably from a faucet on an outside wall. Just a trickle may keep your pipes from freezing.
• Keep your thermostat set at the same temperature day and night. You might be in the habit of turning down the heat when you're asleep, but further drops in temperature - more common overnight - could catch you off guard and freeze your pipes.
• Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks and to appliances near exterior walls.
"Prevention is key to protecting your home during winter. That includes making sure you have adequate home insurance," said Beidleman.
If it's too late and your pipes are already frozen, AAA recommends:
• If you turn on your faucets and nothing comes out, leave the faucets turned on and call a plumber.
• Do not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water.
• Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame. It could cause a fire.
• You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe with warm air from a hair dryer. Start by warming the pipe as close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe.
• If your water pipes have already burst, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve in the house. Leave the water faucets turned on. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the water shutoff valve is and how to open and close it.