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September 2012

Be Prepared for Winter Plumbing Problems

Be Prepared for Winter Plumbing Problems

Plumbing problems can occur at any time, but during the winter months you’re more apt to experience ice cold showers, leakage, freezing pipes and flooding. One of the most severe problems that occurs this time of year is frozen or burst pipes, often with devastating results, e.g. flooding inside your home. Be prepared for the emergencies with these helpful tips.
Below are some tips to help reduce the chances of frozen or burst pipes:
  • Insulate your plumbing pipes against freezing.
  • Keep the doors inside your home open. This helps heat circulate through your entire home.
  • If temperatures are expected to drop overnight, let the warm water drip, preferably from a faucet on an outside wall. Even a trickle of hot and cold water can prevent your pipes from freezing.
  • Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.
  • If you’re going out of town during the cold winter months, before you leave set the thermostat in your home no lower than 55F (12C) and ask a friend or neighbor to check your house daily to make sure it’s warm enough to prevent freezing.
Here are some tips for dealing with plumbing emergencies:
  • If you have a frozen pipe, turn off the main water supply by using the stop valve. This valve is usually located under the kitchen sink or in your basement at the water meter. Make sure to protect everything around the frozen pipe to avoid damage if it bursts. In this situation you need to thaw the pipe. First, open the tap nearest the part of the pipe you think is frozen. You’ll want to get water to flow through once it’s melted. Using a hair dryer, carefully thaw the ice in the pipe starting at the end closest to the tap. DO NOT use a heat gun or blowtorch.
  • FACT: When water freezes in a pipe it expands and can exert pressure over 2,000 pounds per square inch, enough pressure to rupture most any pipe filled with water, providing no place for the ice to expand.
  • A burst pipe can definitely be classified as an emergency, having the potential to cause serious damage to your home’s structure and electrical wiring. Keep the emergency number of a trusted plumber handy. When an emergency occurs you don’t have time to start searching for a plumber. (HINT: Check ahead of time about pricing, some plumbers may charge high hourly rates for emergency services.)
  • When dealing with a burst pipe, turn off the water supply at the main valve. This may be located under the kitchen sink or in your basement at the water meter. Next, drain the system by turning on all your cold taps and flushing your toilets. Get a plumber out to your house as soon as possible to fix the damage.
  • Remember plumbing problems can happen at any time but by being prepared you can prevent further damage to your home and save yourself an even bigger headache.