Cold Weather Tips for Homeowners and Renters

There is nothing more unpleasant than waking up and finding that your water pipes froze overnight, and then you have to wait to find out if your pipes are okay or if the ice caused them to burst!  It’s happened to all of us at one time or another, but it doesn’t have to ruin your day.

Here with advice is real estate expert John Adams:

Q:  John, everyone knows it was cold last night, in fact, it’s still cold right now. But how often do we experience temperatures cold enough to freeze our water pipes, and what can we do about it?

A:  The truth is, here in the South, we live in a fairly mild climate, and it takes more than just an overnight freeze to cause problems. The real danger is from sustained periods of temperatures below 20 degrees.  It’s unusual, but it DOES happen on occasion, and when it does it is EXTREMELY inconvenient and EXTREMELY expensive.

Once it happens, you have to turn off the water to the house, then wait for warmer weather to discover the extent of the damage. THEN you have to wait for and PAY FOR the repairs, which can be as much as $150 per broken pipe.

Q:  So, what can we do?  

* Disconnect outside water hoses. If you leave hoses connected during freezing temperatures, water in hoses will freeze and expand causing connecting faucets and hoses to freeze and break.

* Inspect outside faucets. If dripping or leaking, make the necessary repairs or call a plumber before a freeze.

* If your home is equipped with interior shut-off valves leading to outside faucets, close them and drain water from the pipes.

* Cover outside faucets using an inexpensive faucet insulation kit. They cost as little as five bucks. If you can’t afford that, wrap the exposed portion of the faucet with a towel and duct tape it tight. Even that little step might save you a couple hundred dollars.

* Insulate pipes in unheated areas. Apply heat tape or thermostat-controlled heat cables around exposed pipes.  If you don’t want to go that far, you can gain a substantial level of insulation using old newspapers taped around the pipe.

* Close or cover foundation vents where outside air can blow into your crawl space or basement. Do whatever it takes to stop cold air from blowing in.  

* Make sure your furnace is set no lower than 55 degrees during the frereze to prevent pipes from freezing. Note that when pipes freeze, water pressure builds causing cracks, whether the pipe is made of plastic, copper or steel. Even a tiny crack can unleash 250 gallons of water in a single day.

* Your water heater works harder during winter months. Drain out the corrosion-causing sediment from the tank, which reduces energy efficiency if it's not removed.

* Set water heater thermostat to 120 F for optimum performance without risk of scalding.

* Keep leaves and gunk out of your gutters and downspouts to prevent damage to gutters and drainage problems..

QUESTION:  SHould we leave our faucets dripping if a hard freeze is predicted?

* I personally do not believe in leaving a faucet dripping to prevent freezing. I suppose it works, but I have an aversion to wasting water, and if you leave all your faucets dripping, your water bill will begin to add up pretty quickly.

These simple tasks can help you avoid the nightmare of frozen and broken water pipes, not to mention the plumbing bill, which can run $150 per break or even more if the damage is worse.

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