HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — With cold temperatures forecasted for the Rio Grande Valley, the American Red Cross urges families to safely heat their homes and protect pipes from freezing.

Heaters

The Red Cross advises keeping children, pets, and items that can burn such as paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets, and rugs, keeping them at least three feet away.

  • If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs, carpets, or near bedding or drapes. Plug power cords directly into outlets – never into an extension cord.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.

Protect pipes from freezing

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be traveling during cold weather, leave the heater on in your home, and set it to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

Thawing frozen pipes

  • If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or another open flame device.
  • Apply heat until the full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

Stay safe during winter weather

  • Check on your neighbors, especially elderly people living alone, people with disabilities, and children.
  • Bring pets indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm as well as water and food.
  • Ramps, bridges, and overpasses freeze before roadways. Use caution if you must travel!
  • Follow recommendations from the weather service as well as the State of Texas.
  • Download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to weather alerts in your area.
  • Expert medical guidance and hospital locations are included in the First Aid App in case travelers encounter any mishaps.