(Photo Credit: IBHS)
Pipes that freeze and burst can result in extensive property damage. Once a pipe freezes, continued expansion and freezing causes pressure to build up in the pipe between the blockage and the faucet. This pressure causes the pipe to burst in areas where little or no ice has actually formed. Here are some precautions to help avoid frozen and burst pipes and water damage.
- For pipes most vulnerable to freezing—in attics, crawlspaces, and outside walls—insulate with foam sleeves or wrapping.
- Caulk cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations to keep cold wind away from pipes.
- Purchase a backup generator to keep your furnace running when power fails.
- Know where to turn off the water supply or water pump.
- Drain outside faucets and use insulated faucet covers (found at home improvement stores).
During periods of severe cold:
- Keep cabinet doors open to let the warm interior air circulate around pipes under sinks and adjacent to outside walls.
- Turn on all faucets to a slow drip to prevent pressure from building in the pipes.
Before leaving for an extended period of time:
- Set the thermostat no lower than 65 degrees.
- Ask someone you trust to check the property while you’re away.
- Consider turning off the water and draining the system. Shut off the main water valve and turn on every water faucet—hot and cold—until the water stops running. You can then shut off the faucets since there will be no water, and therefore no pressure, in the system. When you return, turn on the main value and let faucets run until the system is full and pressurized.
- Consider installing a temperature-monitoring device or using an app on your smartphone.
My Pipes Froze. Now What?
Turn on all faucets to release pressure. Turn off the water supply and call a plumber. Do not try to thaw the pipe using an open flame, as this will cause damage to your pipe and may cause a building fire. You might be able to thaw the pipe with a handheld hair dryer but do so slowly to avoid super-heating any adjacent wood and creating a fire hazard. Start at the faucet end of the pipe, with the faucet open. Never use electrical appliances while standing in water as you could get electrocuted.
For additional information on preventing or dealing with frozen pipes you can read more from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety.
If this coming winter’s temperatures are even half as cold as last year, we’ll once again be doing everything we can to stay warm. For this, many turn to alternative forms of heating such as fireplaces, space heaters, boilers, and traditional wood or pellet stoves.
Wood or pellet stoves are an increasingly popular form of alternative or supplemental heating during the cold season, but like every form of heating, they must be used with care. As the prevalence of these stoves has increased, so has the number of fires caused by their misuse or improper installation and maintenance. If you plan on heating your home with a wood or pellet stove, make sure you take the necessary precautions by following the tips below:
- Install the stove in a central room to maximize heating effectiveness.
- Make sure your stove and chimney are Underwriters Laboratories tested and approved.
- Hire a professional chimney sweep to keep the chimney’s flue and stove pipe clean and remove any blockages, oils, or creosote that may have built up.
- Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home, especially in the room where the stove is located.
- Use only the fuel type (wood, corn, pellets, coal, etc.) the stove is specifically designed to burn.
- If you are using wood, make sure it is dry and well-seasoned.
- Non-flammable floor protection such as tile should extend out at least 18 inches on all sides of the stove.
- Always keep flammable materials away from any heating source.
- Never use liquid fuel such as kerosene in a stove.
- Prevent small children and pets from getting too close to the stove by putting up a non-flammable safety gate.
- Run the stove only when your home is occupied.
- Check the charge on your fire extinguisher to make sure it is full and ready to use in case of emergency.
Before installing a new stove in your home, check to make sure the installation will comply with your local fire and building codes and always hire a licensed and insured installer.