Protect pipes from freezing when temperatures drop

Published 9:41 am Friday, January 6, 2017

METRO SERVICES  Cold weather brings with it the threat of frozen water pipes, which can lead to costly repairs should the pipe burst. Protect your pipes this winter with a few basic precautions.

Cold weather brings with it the threat of frozen water pipes, which can lead to costly repairs should the pipe burst. Protect your pipes this winter with a few basic precautions.

When cold weather arrives, it can be bad news for residents if their water pipes freeze. Frozen pipes can be more than an inconvenience, they can cause damage to the home if they break or if not thawed properly.
Any pipe can freeze, but those that are directly exposed to the cold are the most vulnerable. These include pipes that feed outdoor hoses, swimming pool supply lines, pipes in unheated indoor rooms (i.e., basements or garages), and any pipes that run close to the outdoors through uninsulated walls. Water expands as it freezes, and that expansion can place pressure on whatever is trying to contain it — including pipes.
The following tips are recommended to help residents avoid frozen pipes and are especially important to remember if residents are going to be out of town when cold weather hits.
• Eliminate drafts – Keep doors and windows in the basement and garage tightly closed. Close off crawl space vents and doors, and seal cracks in basement or crawl space walls.
• Insulate – Insulate pipes in unheated portions of the house such as exterior walls, crawl spaces, basements, cabinets or any enclosure where air can’t circulate. Increase insulation around where pipes enter the house. Use insulating foam to seal any drafts where pipes enter the house from the outdoors. Be alert for damp insulation; water soaked insulation can cause a freeze-up.
• Protect meter – Make sure the meter box cover is not broken, missing or ajar. These conditions allow freezing cold air to penetrate the box’s insulation. Report missing or broken covers to the Water and Sewer Services Department at (423)461-1645.
• Protect outside faucets – Outside faucets and sprinkler systems should be drained. Garden hoses should be disconnected and drained. Any space between faucet and exterior wall should be caulked. Check with your plumber about frost-proof faucets.
• Drain pipes if leaving town – When away from home for extended periods and heat is not left on, turn water off at cutoff and drain the lines.
• Leave faucet running – When temperatures reach low teens, leave a very thin stream of water running continuously from at least one tap. It is important to note, however, that faucets left running may have an adverse effect on septic tanks. Other precautions should be taken.
• Open cabinet doors – If a sink is on an outside wall, open vanity or cabinet doors to allow warm air to reach water pipes. Keep the doors open to spaces that may not be heated or insulated as well as other areas of the home so that heat can find its way inside. Consider wrapping these pipes with an insulating material as well, such as heat tape or pipe sleeves.
• Thaw carefully – Never use an open flame to thaw a frozen pipe. Use hot air from a hair dryer, vacuum cleaner exhaust, heat tape or light bulb.
• Locate shut-off valve – Don’t wait until a water pipe is broken to find the shut-off valve. While your water or sewer department is responding to your emergency call, you will be able to minimize your damage by quickly stopping the flow of water. This is usually located inside near where the main water line enters the house. It may also be located in the basement, beneath the floor, in the garage or utility room. If you don’t know where your shut off valve is, check with your builder or plumber to assist in locating it. Frozen pipes cannot always be avoided. Therefore, it is important that everyone in the household knows how to shut off the main water valve in the event a pipe bursts. This can prevent expensive damage to a home.
• Open one faucet — When it is very cold outside, particularly at night, let water slowly drip from one faucet to prevent freezing. Choose the sink that is furthest from where water enters the house so water is flowing through all of the pipes to reach that faucet.
• Maintain a consistent thermostat temperature — Ensure the temperature inside your home does not drop below 55 degrees F; otherwise, problems can arise. Use a programmable thermostat to keep the house comfortable even when you are not home. Individuals who are traveling should set the thermostat so that it will keep the home at the recommended temperature to avoid frozen pipes.

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