Plumbing pro tips for homeowners with frozen or broken pipes

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Many people in Central Texas are dealing with frozen or even broken pipes. Concerns of pipes bursting will only heighten later in the week as they begin to thaw out.

“We have been getting a lot of calls from people who want to pre-book service calls, because their pipes are frozen, and unfortunately it’s just not something we have the capacity to do, because there’s going to be so many people who do actually have broken pipes when they thaw. We’re going to have to get to those folks first,” said Mike Marugo, Austin Plumbing Division Manager for ABC Home and Commercial.

ABC Home and Commercial hasn’t been able to get any plumbers out on the road for the past couple of days. But, as soon as the roads are safe enough to do so, Marugo says they’ll work around the clock to get people quick fixes.

“Look and listen for anything that doesn’t look right or doesn’t sound right,” he said. “If you see water some place it doesn’t, shut your line off. If you hear water some place it doesn’t belong, go shut your water off.”

Marugo does not advise doing anything other than turning off the water to your home, then waiting.

“If you were mechanically inclined, had the right amount of knowledge, the right tools and the right equipment, you might be able to do something, but most folks don’t, and they’re just going to wind up making things worse,” Marugo said.

It won’t be a quick fix. Marugo’s team of plumbers in Austin is already booked all the way through the first week of March.

“Most of the plumbing calls are not going to be completed on the first visit, because there are so many people who don’t have hot water, so many people who don’t have water at all,” Marugo explained. “When I send a plumber to the house, he’s going to have to figure out what’s the quickest thing that I can do to get water back to this house.”

Marugo says plumbers may perform quick fixes, like temporarily capping a broken line and restoring water to the rest of the home.

“Then, I have to move on down to the next one, because they don’t have any water all,” Marugo said, explaining that eventually, plumbers would come back to homes to make the full fix.

Meanwhile if your pipes have frozen, Marugo says you don’t need to do anything unless you notice a leak.

“Plenty of times, they can freeze and the pipes are okay. Sometimes they freeze and the pipes aren’t. There’s really no way to know until that ice melts. Then, the water’s going to go back to that spot. If that pipe is broken, that’s where you’re going to find out.”

Marugo also has a warning for homeowners with a tankless water heater mounted outside. He says it could freeze if you lose power.

Once that happens, the parts inside are hard to repair. Marugo says many companies don’t warranty tankless hot water heaters if they freeze, so you could end up spending thousands of dollars on a new water heater.

However, if your power’s out but you still have water, there is a way you can still try to prevent that, he says.

“Really the only thing you can do at that point is go inside and open up several hot water faucets, much more so than just leaving them drip. You want a good steady stream out of those, so that they can move as much water through that machine as possible.”

Even though the water won’t come out hot, Marugo says it’s important to turn on the “hot” side of the faucet for this to work.

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