It looks like that subzero weather is going to be with us for a while. As the owner of an ancient house, I have had to deal with frozen pipes a few times. We have a sink with
plumbing inches away from the northwest corner of the house. My goal is to keep it from freezing so that I don’t have to thaw it out. Right now I have a short piece of heat tape wrapped around the pipe and I check it frequently when the temperature gets to -8 or less.
The last time the pipe froze was when the temperature dropped to -27. We turned the faucet on and after about 10 hours the pipe thawed on its own. The best way for a homeowner to thaw a pipe is with a hairdryer. It takes patience but it works. Turn the spigot on and aim the hairdryer at the frozen pipe. Be patient it takes time.
Having a plumber thaw the pipe is an even better idea but when we get the super cold weather plumbers are busy and they charge that extra emergency fee too.
Drains can freeze too. They can’t freeze unless there is water in them. A faucet that drips can cause a drain to freeze. Putting a stopper in the drain or putting something under the drip to catch the water will work as a temporary fix.
I have toured houses that were damaged after the pipes were frozen and burst as they thawed. It isn’t a pretty sight and depending upon the circumstances homeowners insurance may not pay for the repairs.
Homeowners who plan to have their vacant house on the market in the winter should have it winterized. Most plumbers can do this and some homeowners do it themselves. Winterizing involves turning off the water and draining the plumbing and water heater.
Homebuyers should insist that the water be turned on prior to a complete home inspection. I like to put the request right in the purchase agreement.
When I sell my house I will need to disclose that we have had frozen pipes.
Also, see It is never too late to winterize