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Bitter Cold Weather Can Cause Pipes To Freeze And Burst

By Steve Patterson

BENSALEM, Pa. (CBS) – Plumbers were on the scene at a home in Bensalem Wednesday. There the brutal cold caused the pipes to freeze. Company officials say it's one of the busiest winters in recent memory.

"I've been working plenty of hours just for frozen pipes," said plumber Frank Colon. "A lot of calls this winter."

Frank works for the regional Roto-rooter. He says Wednesday's call was typical. The pipes leading up to the attic where exposed and open to the bitter cold and harsh wind.

The pipes froze, the water stopped and there was serious risk for a burst. A lot of times, no one knows there's an actual burst, until the plumber safely re-heats the pipes.

He wouldn't know if there were any bursts until he used a heating machine to get water flowing

"If there's a broken pipe, you'll know," Colon said. "It will leak right through the ceiling downstairs. The customer will know, everyone will know. We don't want that."

Frank was able to safely heat the pipes without a burst, but in his nearly thirty years in the business, he's seen hundreds. He said prevention starts with following guidelines, listening to tips and using common sense.


While there's not necessarily a 'degree cutoff' below freezing, the golden rule for bitter cold temps and sub-zero windchill is always send a little trickle.

"The most important thing is to leave the water running," Colon said. "Water wont freeze if its running. just enough so it's trickling down."

If it's a common occurrence, having your pipes insulated with specialized tape may be the way to go.

"Insulate your pipes. Put heat tape around it," Colon said. "A lot of these pipes when the plumbers put them in, they put them in outside walls and attics and they will freeze when it gets really cold like this."

If the area is safe, Frank even said a space-heater would work.

The DIY Solution:

A hairdryer, simple right?

Frank said if you know a particular place where a cold wind may meet an exposed pipe. Sometimes a small burst of hot hair does the trick. Depending on the situation or entry point, it doesn't always work. But it just may save a costly plumber call..

The Big No No:

The absolute worst thing you could do is bring a flame of any kind. Lighter, match, blowtorch, etc. Just don't do it.

"Never any kind of fire. It could absolutely catch anything," Colon said. "Very important: never use a torch or anything with fire."

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