by Jim Sells, Emergency Management Coordinator
Over the next several nights, temperatures are expected to drop into the mid to upper teens. Without proper precautions a water pipe can freeze and burst. Restoring a home to normal after this often involves more than just calling a plumber. A small crack (1/8 inch) can result in up to 250 gallons spraying into your home a day. All types of pipes are at risk.
Here are a few simple precautions, you can use to prevent this from happening to you.
Prior to the cold
Insulate pipes in crawl spaces and attics. These pipes are the most likely to freeze and the more insulation you add, the better protected the pipes will be.
Heat Tape can also be used to wrap pipes. Unfortunately, if these are used improperly, a fire can result. Read and closely follow the products directions and only use those approved by an independent testing organization such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and Factory Mutual (FM).
Check for areas that allow air to leak into your crawl space near where water pipes pass. This allows cold air in and includes such areas as around dryer vents, electrical wiring and pipes. Minor amounts of air on a pipe can cause freezing. Caulk or insulation can be used to keep the cold out and the heat in.
Exterior garden hoses should be disconnected. The garden house should also be drained. A frozen garden house, still connected to the house can freeze back to the spigot and into the inner pipes.
When it gets cold
Allowing a faucet to drip for both hot and cold water is a simple action that can keep your pipes from freezing.
Opening cabinets to allows heat inside where pipes are inside under sinks can help prevent freezing.
Keep the heat on with the thermostat set at least 55 degrees F.
When your pipes freeze
DO NOT TAKE A CHANCE. If you turn on the water and nothing comes out, you most likely have a frozen pipe temperatures are real low. Leave the faucets on and call your plumber. If you find a burst water pipe turn off your main water shut off, but again..leave the faucets on. You need to know how to cut off you water prior to emergencies.
NEVER try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame. The results of a fire can be more devastating than any water damage. A hair dryer may be able to thaw a frozen pipe. If you use a hair dryer, start by warming the pipe as close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of the pipe. But be careful and do not use electrical items in standing water due to the possibility of electrocution.