Monday, January 31, 2011
Pipes Get Cold, Too
Brrrr. It’s that time of year when a major inconvenience can happen–like your home’s pipes freeing. Frozen pipes can be costly, messy...and avoidable.
Did you know that an eighth-inch crack in a pipe can allow 250 gallons of water to leak in a 24-hour period? That amount of water can do enormous damage to hardwood floors, carpets, furniture and appliances, and the possibility of health-threatening mold, to say nothing of the cost of cleanup and repairs.
Although most home insurance policies cover damage caused by burst pipes, it’s far better to avoid the hassle in the first place. Following are some steps to take to avoid frozen pipes:
– Cover exposed pipes with insulation. At risk areas include exposed pipes in your garage, in crawl spaces and in the attic. Tubular foam is efficient in most cases, or for colder weather, heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables may be necessary. Carefully follow manufacturers instructions.
– Cover outside valves with faucet protectors.
– Disconnect and drain hoses and lawn sprinklers during the winter months.
– Keep your house heated at a minimum 60F degrees.
– During extreme cold weather, allow your inside hot and cold faucets to slowly drip, allowing water to keep moving in the pipes.
– Seal air leaks, often found in the garage or under-sink cabinets, to prevent cold outside air from coming inside. Use caulk or insulation as a sealant.
– On very cold, windy nights, leave under-sink cabinet doors open at night.
When you discover a frozen pipe, leave the faucet open a bit to allow pressure to escape to protect the pipe from further damage. Also, close the valve leading to the pipe. Check the length of the pipe for holes, cracks or breaks.
If you find that the pipe has been compromised, you may be able to repair the pipe yourself if the damage is minimal. You may need to use a patch kit, following the manufacturer’s instructions for repair. Or, it may be necessary to have a professional plumber make repairs.
To thaw the pipe, use a hair dryer, a heat gun at a low setting, or a small electric heater. If you use an electrical implement, ensure that the cords are out of the water. Another method of thawing is wrapping the pipes with towels and pouring hot water over them.
If your home is water damaged, turn off the water at the source. Call your insurance company immediately. If you get the okay to begin repairs, take photos and keep all damaged items and repair receipts so that you can prove your losses. Remove wet carpeting as soon as possible so that the floors underneath aren’t further damaged. Avoid expensive repairs until an insurance adjuster has evaluated your damage.
Frozen pipes can seriously damage an RV, too. Take precautions to ensure your RV is winterized by draining the pipes and using RV antifreeze where applicable. Check with your RV dealer for recommendations for your specific rig.
The best plan to prevent damage by frozen pipes in your home, cabin or RV is by taking a few preventive measures. Prevention is better than having to make repairs once the damage happens.