What’s worse than a major home maintenance disaster? How about several at once? For the quarter-million families who have their homes ruined and their lives disrupted each winter because of frozen water pipes, frigid nights can very quickly turn to ongoing, inconvenient, extremely expensive ordeals.
In the United States, frozen pipes cause a huge amount of damage each year and they’re largely preventable. You’ll help save yourself the mess, money, and aggravation frozen pipes cause.
Before the Cold. There are a number of preventative steps you can take now to keep your pipes from freezing. Things like:
· Insulate pipes in your home's crawl space, attic, and outer walls. Use foam or rubber insulation on exposed pipes since they are the most susceptible to freezing.
· Use heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables to wrap pipes. Be sure to use products approved by an independent testing organization, such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc., and only for the use intended (exterior or interior). Closely follow all manufacturers' installation and operation instructions.
· Seal leaks that allow cold air inside near where pipes are located. Look for air leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents and pipes, and use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out. With severe cold, even a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze.
· Disconnect garden hoses and, if possible, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house.
· Make sure everyone in your family knows where the main water shutoff valve is and how to open and close it.
When The Mercury Drops. Even if you’ve taken the right preventative steps, extreme weather conditions can still harm your pipes. Here are a few more steps you can take:
· Set your thermostat no lower than 55°F (12°C).
· Let hot and cold water trickle at night from a faucet on an outside wall, preferably the one farthest away from where the water enters your home.
· Open cabinet doors to allow more heat to get to uninsulated pipes under a sink or appliance near an outer wall.
· Keep garage doors closed, especially if there are water supply lines in the garage.
Planning to travel? Travelling in the winter months might be good for the soul, but don’t forget to think about your pipes before you leave. What can you do?
· Before leaving, be sure that your thermostat is set no lower than 55°F.
· Replace the thermostat’s batteries. Fresh is best.
· Ask a friend or neighbor to check your house daily to make sure it's warm enough to prevent freezing
· Drain/shut off the water system. Be aware that if you have a fire protection sprinkler system in your house, it may be deactivated when you shut off the water.
If Your Pipes Do Freeze. What do you do if your pipes still freeze, despite your best preventative measures? First step: don’t panic. Just because they’re frozen doesn’t mean they’ve already burst.
· If you turn on your faucets and nothing comes out, leave the faucets turned on and call a plumber.
· Do not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water: you could be electrocuted.
· Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame because it could cause a fire hazard. Water damage is preferable to burning down your house!
· You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe with the warm air from a hair dryer. Start by warming the pipe as close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe.
· If your water pipes have already burst, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve in the house; leave the water faucets turned on.
Frozen pipes can be prevented and/or damage mitigated by taking the right steps- before, during and after. <
Tricia Zwirner is a State Farm agent celebrating her 21st year in Windham. She and her team would love to hear from you and can be reached via phone & text at 207.892.2864 or via email at tricia@TRICIAZWIRNER.com.