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How To Avoid Frozen Pipes When Temperatures Plunge

Kitchen sink
State Farm
When temperatures drop, open cabinets under kitchen and bathroom sinks to circulate warm air.

In 2018 Illinois was the national leader—or more accurately, loser—for the amount of insurance claims paid out because of frozen pipes and ice dams caused by extreme cold.

This week's weather may keep us in first place for 2019 too.

Now is the time to get ready for several days of subzero temperatures, said Bloomington Public Works Director Jim Karch.

“What pipes are up against exterior walls? Are there any pipes in crawl spaces that are not protected or insulated? Those are going to be your pipes that will be most likely to freeze. Check those. Provide the insulation now around them,” Karch said on GLT’s Sound Ideas.

Some advice from the City of Bloomington

  • Wrap water pipes running along outside walls or pipes located in crawl spaces with insulation material.
  • When temperatures drop, open cabinets under kitchen and bathroom sinks to circulate warm air.
  • Leave cold water dripping in all inside faucets during the coldest weather.

If you suspect you already have a frozen pipe, here is Karch’s advice: 
“Make sure that your faucets are turned on, because whenever the water starts flowing (again), you don’t want it to expand and not have somewhere to go,” he said.

In 2018 more claims were paid in Illinois (1,546) for winter water losses (including frozen pipes and ice dams) than any other state in the U.S., State Farm said last week. The total payout for Illinois claims in 2018 reached nearly $28 million, with the average cost per claim around $18,000.

Karch said the recent extreme changes in temperature also stress out the city’s water mains. Bloomington recently saw three water main breaks on the same day, Karch said.

In Normal, part of the intersection of Main and Dale streets near the Illinois State University campus were closed Tuesday as crews worked to repair a water main break.

“This is that time of year. This is where you find your weak spots, with the water mains, when you have these extreme freeze-thaws,” Karch said.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.