The first winter storm is poised to hit the Triad; is your home ready?
Hereâ€™s a checklist of things to do before the storm hits:
- Clear your gutters; they canâ€™t direct water away from your house if theyâ€™re clogged with leaves and debris.
- Trim your trees. The Triad is especially prone to ice storms, which can cause ice to accumulate on branches. Ice-laden branches can then break off and fall on your home, car, or power lines.
- Cover your outdoor HVAC unit. Although we generally recommend leaving the unit uncovered for the winter, a blizzard is one of the few reasons that we recommend temporarily covering it. After the storm, remove the cover and clear the area of snow and ice.
- Make sure your sump pump is working by pouring a five-gallon bucket of water into the well. If it seems to be lagging, make sure itâ€™s clear of debris. For other problems, call Johns Heating, Plumbing, and Air Conditioning as soon as possible.
- Familiarize yourself with your electrical panel and power main.
- Make sure your furnace and heating system is working at full power by scheduling a check-up with Johns.
- Charge your phone.
- Secure all outdoor furniture, bicycles, etc.
- Create an emergency kit with flashlights, extra batteries, first aid supplies, candles, matches, food, and fresh water.
Detection of Frozen Pipes
If the temperature has been below freezing and you have turned on the tap and nothing comes out, you might have a frozen water pipe. If you turn on the tap, and just a trickle of water comes out, you might have a frozen water pipe.Â Frozen pipes may have a bulge or may have frost on the outside of them. If a section of pipe feels colder than the surrounding sections, that section can be the frozen culprit.
Myth:Â All Frozen Pipes Burst
This is not the case. Many times the pipe will thaw without rupturing. Before you begin thawing the pipe, make sure the main water valve is turned off, and the faucets are all turned on. When the water in the pipe begins to defrost, the water will drain through the pipe to the faucet. If there is more than one section of frozen pipe, make sure that you start thawing the pipe at the frozen spot closest to the faucet. This will allow the melting water to flow out of the line properly instead of backing it up and causing pressure buildup in the line.
Myth:Â Contact a Plumber at the First Sign of a Frozen Pipe
Defrosting a frozen pipe does not always result in the need to call a plumber. You can save yourself some money if you are patient and thaw the pipe out yourself. Plumbers can come babysit your pipes while they thaw, but you will pay heftily for them to do it, especially if it is after hours or on a weekend. Homeowners can crank up the heat in the home to defrost the pipes in the walls. Indoor pipes will usually thaw out slowly, and water will eventually begin to flow through the faucet into the sink. You can turn the water back on from the main valve to force more water into the line. If water begins to flow properly into the sink, then your efforts were successful. If however, no water is making its way to the faucet, and if you find the water damaging your walls, carpet, or furniture, turn the main water valve off immediately and call your plumbing expert.
Where is the Sink?
It is easy to overlook the plumbing in the garage. If you have a sink or faucet in the garage, the plumbing is not far away. The plumbing in the garage is often exposed to the elements
more so than the plumbing under the house. Opening and closing the garage door allows winter temperatures to penetrate the space where your plumbing is located. If your garage sink is wall-mounted without a cabinet surrounding it, the pipes are exposed to the elements and at a high risk for freezing.
Chore to Heat
If you spend little time in your garage during the winter, you may not have discovered the need for heat in that space. Most garages are not equipped with heat vents from the central heating unit. Space heaters or portable heating sources are often the main sources of heat in the garage. If your garage is not well insulated, and older ones usually are not, it will be a chore to heat this area.
Energy Efficiency Pays Off
Your best bet will be to add a layer of insulation to the ceiling, around the walls, and on the concrete floor.Â It will save on your energy bill later because it will trap the heat in winter and keep the area cool in the summer.Â Adding heat to your garage can prevent an emergency service call to a plumber.
It is Okay to Call for Help
If you would rather not install a separate heating unit in the garage yourself, be sure to contact your heating and air technician. The technician will have the best idea of where to put your new heater. Small, efficient propane heaters can be attached to portable â€œgrill sizeâ€ tanks. The technician can set this up for you. These heaters can be useful as a back-up plan in case the electric power service is interrupted during a winter storm. If the power is off, you can relocate to the garage for warmth and take refuge from the storm.
Donâ€™t Be Caught Off Guard
Subfreezing temperatures can cause extensive problems for an unprepared homeowner. If your pipes have already frozen, leaks can spring up as thawing occurs. Frozen pipes and leaks can happen in the walls, under the house, or under the sinks inside the house.Â All of your pipes must be cared for, not just the ones that are exposed outside.
How to Prevent Freezing Pipes
All pipes should be wrapped and insulated. The pre-slit pipe wrap insulation is one of the easiest to install.Â It fits over your pipes and is to be taped down so that it stays in place.Â These prefabricated pipe wraps are made by a variety of companies. You can also use the traditional rolls of insulation and wrap the pipes yourself.Â As long as the pipes are covered before they are frozen, the insulation should protect the pipes from freezing.
If your house has a crawl space beneath it, you should check to make sure that any vents or entryways are closed so that a direct current of cold air is not invading your pipesâ€™ territory.Â If your water heater is in a closet with outdoor access, make sure that those pipes are insulated as well. Inside pipes should be insulated also.
Inside your home, on the coldest of days, opening your cabinet doors beneath your sinks is a good idea. This will allow heat to flow around the pipes. Putting lit light bulbs underneath your home near your pipe network is a good way to help prevent freezing.Â Light bulbs produce heat and will combat the freezing temperatures. You can purchase a cord with a bulb socket on it.Â Some of these cords are long and have multiple bulb sockets. They were originally designed for outdoor lighting for parties, but you can re-purpose these into a pipe-heating mechanism.Â It is well worth the effort to crawl under your home and place these lamps near your pipe network.
Outdoor spigots should not be used during winter. These are prime targets for freezing. Make sure that you drain these well. Wrap them with extra insulation to prevent damage.
How to Thaw
Despite your best efforts to prevent freezing, sometimes freezing happens.Â If this happens to your pipes, be sure to use either a hair dryer or a light bulb to defrost them. Both will heat the pipe with warmth and neither will melt the pipe. You should consider turning the water off at the main meter before attempting to defrost the pipe. If a leak occurs, this will minimize the amount of water available to make a mess. If the pipe bursts or springs a leak, it is a great idea to contact a plumber immediately.