Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Baby, It's Cold Outside!



Every winter, homeowners suffer from the destruction, frustration, and financial burden caused by freezing and bursting water pipes.
Freezing can occur in any water pipe exposed to temperatures of 32ºF or below. As freezing water expands, it generates enough pressure to burst pipes and fixtures. When frozen pipes thaw, flooding can occur and cause extensive damage. Pipes in garages, attics, crawl spaces, and unheated rooms are particularly susceptible to freezing. Pipes in exterior walls may also freeze with temperatures below freezing during severely cold weather.
During the winter, winterization steps should be followed. By taking a few simple precautions, you can avoid the frustration, destruction, and expenses caused by frozen pipes. We recommend that you use this guide to help prevent frozen pipes and protect your investment.
An eighth-inch (three millimeter) crack in a pipe can leak up to 250 gallons (946 liters) of water per day. Both plastic (PVC) and copper pipes can burst.
·         Know Where Your Shut-Off Valve Is – All responsible household members should know where the home’s shut-off valve is located prior to needing it for an emergency. Every home should be equipped with a shut-off valve. Generally, a shut-off valve is located on the service line on your side of the water meter, near the house.  If you live in a condominium you may want to leave your water dripping on very cold days. Moving water is less likely to freeze.
·         Insulate Pipes and Faucets – If you have pipes in unheated areas, such as the garage or a crawl space under the house, insulate them with items such as pipe wrap, foam jackets, or heat tape. Insulating products are available at local hardware stores or building supply retailers. Follow all manufacturers’ installation and operation instructions. If you have questions, call a professional for help. While this is not a fail-safe option, it can prolong the amount of time that the temperature drops and causes freezing.
·         Seal Off Air Leaks – With cold winter winds, a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to freeze a pipe. Look for leaks around dryer vents, electrical wiring, and pipes. Use caulk or insulation to keep the cold air out. Don’t cover or block air vents for your water heater or furnace; proper ventilation is important for those items.


Shut Off and Drain Outdoor Irrigation System
Irrigation systems to be shut off from November 1st to April 1st.
1. Set the automatic irrigation controller to the “Off” setting.
2. Turn off water to the irrigation system at the stop and drain valve. Many homes have separate stop and drain valves for the outdoor water supply. Make sure the different valves are labeled so they are easy to identify.
3. Drain all water out of any irrigation components that might freeze. Some systems may drain automatically.
4. Disconnect garden hoses from hose bibs.
Shut Off and Drain Outdoor Plumbing

1. Shut off water to outside plumbing and exterior hose bibs. Outside plumbing should be drained and exterior hose bibs should be cut off from the inside and the water drained from the inside to the outside. This can be done by simply opening the exterior hose bib and allow to drain.

2. Drain all water out of the pipes by opening every faucet until the water stops running. After the water has stopped, turn off the faucets. If water does not stop, go check the shut-off valve to make sure it’s shut off all the way. If it continues to leak you will need to replace the shut-off valve.

3. Flush Toilets in outside plumbing locations such as pool houses.

4. Pour biodegradable anti-freeze into all toilet bowls and sinks to displace water in the drain pipes. Carefully follow manufacturers’ instructions and always store in a child and pet proof location. We recommend using an RV (recreational vehicle) antifreeze. This is designed not to hurt your plumbing.

5. Open the hot water drain valve on exterior unprotected plumbing. This is usually located at the low point of the water heater. If you choose to drain your hot water tank, turn off the gas or electric supply to the heater. If you do not do this the water heater will try to heat and burn up the interior of the heater tank.

Instead of draining your unprotected plumbing water system, you may heat the area to avoid freezing pipes. However, leaving the thermostat at 45 to 55 degrees does NOT always ensure that the pipes will not freeze. Winter storms may cause power outages, which will cause some heating systems to shut off, resulting in frozen pipes.
If you do not have interior shut-off valves for your exterior hose bibs you can also install an insulated cover over the exterior hose bib. While this is not a guarantee against freezing again it slows the temperature change and may get you through a cold spell. These can be purchased from a local DIY store for less than $2.00.

  • If you turn on the faucets and nothing comes out, call a plumber to evaluate the situation.
  • Open all faucets in the house. When water freezes, it expands by 1/5th its original volume. By relieving pressure, due to the expanding water, you may avoid additional pipe damage.

  • Once your pipes have thawed, it is important that you carefully inspect your home for any signs of a leak. The freezing of the pipes could have caused a pinhole leak, hairline break, or large crack.
  • If you have winterized your exterior hose bibs, when you turn them on next spring you need to review the areas to make sure no freezing of residual water in the pipes that did not drain has not frozen. Listen for a “hissing” noise which indicates broken line spraying water in the walls, calking or under floors. Look for water staining on sheetrock.
  • If you hear this or notice a water leak, call a plumber immediately and cut off the water to your home or unit.
  • If you have winterized an exterior unprotected water source or pool house, you need to be aware that there is still the potential for the residual water in the lines to have frozen and cause a break in the piping. Again if you find a break, turn off the water and call a plumber immediately.
Water is the most destructive item in your home. When a home catches on fire, it is usually the water used to put it out that causes most of the interior damage. It flows down to the lowest point - and if you are in a condominium it flows down to your neighbor.

Remember, Be Water Wise and Winterize!


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