Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Prevent Frozen Pipes

Take steps now to avoid repairs later

Water pipes are not something most people think about – until they freeze and break. And when that happens, homeowners are often left with a big mess and a sizable repair bill.

If you think it won’t happen to you, think again. Coeur d’Alene’s Water Department receives numerous calls every winter from customers with frozen pipes.

Since customers are responsible for freeze-ups on their side on the water meter, all the Department can do is offer advice. It cannot thaw out pipes or fix them if they burst. The only exception is if the freeze-up occurs inside the water meter box, which the city is responsible for maintaining.

“Not having water when you turn on the tap can be very frustrating, ” said Jim Markley, Water Department superintendent. “Doing a few simple things before temperatures hit the freezing mark can help you prevent having to deal with frozen pipes this winter.”

Customers should:

• Disconnect all outside garden hoses and drain them. Hose bib covers can be purchased to insulate outdoor plumbing fixtures.

• Make sure foundation or crawl space vents are covered or closed for the winter.

• Check for other holes in the foundation that allow wind to blow into your crawl space. A frosty draft quickly primes a pipe to freeze.

• Cover exposed pipes in your crawl space with appropriate insulating material and possibly heat tape.

• Open doors under the kitchen sink to allow warmer, room-temperature air to circulate. This helps prevent freeze-ups. Most kitchen plumbing is installed near an exterior wall. Do the same for bathroom plumbing located near an exterior wall.

• Be prepared. Know where your water shut-off is located.

If a freeze-up occurs, it is often in the pipe that brings water into the home. If you have a trailer or home with a crawl space, go into it and check that main pipe. Before you begin thawing the pipe, shut off the water to the house in case the pipe has split. Most houses have a master shut off.

DO NOT THAW WITH AN OPEN FLAME! The best way to thaw the pipe is to use a hair dryer. Portable or area heaters also work as long as they don’t use an open flame. Make sure any electrical device is positioned away from water that may leak during the thaw.

Once the pipe is thawed, cover it with insulation such as heat tape and make sure vents and openings are closed to prevent another freezing.

The second most common cause of a freeze-up is an outside faucet where a hose has been left in place. You can use the same method to thaw it out. As tempting as it may be, don’t leave your water running to prevent freeze-ups. You will waste a lot of water and rack up exorbitant utility bills.

Water pipes usually aren’t high-maintenance household items until they freeze and burst. With a little preventative care now, they’ll serve you long past the cold winter months.

Visit the Water Department online at www.cdaid.org/index.php/departments/water