Thursday, February 11, 2010

The country is still in winter’s grip.

Make sure your pipes are adequately protected to prevent them from freezing. Burst pipes can not only damage your home but also your pocketbook.

Here are some quick tips to make sure your water keeps flowing.

  • Insulate exposed pipes. Check unheated spaces such as the basement, garage and crawlspace (if you have one) and wrap uninsulated pipes with heat tape or pipe insulation.
  • Where’s the shutoff? Show everyone in your house where the main shut-off valve is for your water supply. Make sure you check it annually to insure it’s in good working order. If pipes do burst, immediately shut off the main valve.
  • Bleed the valves. If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, open the valves slightly and then close them when water appears.
  • Going away? If you leave for long periods during the winter and your home is unoccupied, you may want to shut off the main water supply and drain the system. A plumber can do this.
  • Start a trickle. During sub-zero nights, you can let the water in sinks and tubs trickle. The amount of water that will run overnight (and the ensuing bill) is tiny compared to the cost of a burst pipe.
  • Open the cabinets. If the temps go below zero and your pipes run inside your cabinets, you can open the doors to help bring the warmer house air in to meet the colder air near the pipes. Just watch your head!

If your pipes do freeze, take these steps:

  • Shut the water off immediately. Only after you’ve shut off the water should you try to thaw the pipes. Frozen pipes can often have tiny cracks in them, and if you heat the pipes to thaw them, you may end up with a spray of water where you least expect it.
  • Heat the pipes. There are two ways to do it. Warm the air around the pipe with a space heater. Just don’t leave it unattended. Warm the pipe directly with a hair dryer or hot water. Do not use open flames or kerosene heaters to thaw pipes.
  • Turn the water on slowly. When the pipes have thawed, slowly turn the water back on while checking for leaks.

For more information, contact your water authority or municipality. If you don’t have public water, contact a plumber for more tips and tricks.