Frozen plumbing is a real threat this winter, especially in areas not used to such extremely low temperatures. The Polar Vortex has enveloped most of the US with record-breaking temperatures and dangerous wind chills.
Pipes need extra care and attention as the mercury drops and the arctic winds blast. Pipes burst when ice blockages cause an increase in water pressure downstream. The buildup of pressure is what eventually causes a pipe to burst.
Burst pipes mean costly property damage. According to the Insurance Information Network of California, frozen or broken water pipes are second to hurricanes in cost and number of damaged homes.
While the coldest blast of polar air is waning, the winter is far from over. Follow these 7 tips to protect your pipes from freezing this winter:
1)Find your main water shutoff valve: Locate the valve and know how to operate it in case pipes freeze and break.
2) Open cupboards and cabinets: Let warm air circulate around the pipes. Pay close attention to those pipes next to exterior walls.
3) Turn on the faucet: A little trickle of water will relieve pressure downstream of the blockage. Not every faucet needs to be turned on. William B. Rose, senior researcher at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, suggests turning on faucets with pipes near outside walls, vents, and crawl spaces. Make sure BOTH cold and hot water lines are turned on. If you have a gearshift lever faucet, make sure the water is warm.
4) Keep the faucets open! If no water comes out, do NOT turn off the faucet! An open faucet is still providing pressure relief.
5) Don’t rely on insulation: Rose says, “A poor pipe insulation job is worse than no insulation.” Insulation needs to be complete around elbows, T’s, and pipe fittings. Thermostat-controlled heating cables can also protect pipes. Grab some foam insulation and seal cracks and gaps where cold air can sneak in around pipes.
6) Don’t torch the pipes! Open flames are a serious fire hazard and can damage pipes. Rose recommends a hair dryer to thaw a frozen pipe.
7) Set your thermostat: Set your thermostat to 55°F if you’re not at home for long periods of time.
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