As the temperatures fall in several parts of the country each winter, Americans are often reminded about the hazards that come with colder weather. To prepare for lower temperatures and prevent the problems they bring, use the following helpful tips.
Before It Freezes
- Make sure all pipes in unheated areas, pipes located outdoors and pipes that follow exterior walls without insulation are protected. To do this, wrap them with trash bags, plastic foam or rags.
- If there are vents around the home's foundation, make sure they are covered.
- Make sure the outdoor water meter box's lid is secured tightly. The box should also be insulated.
- Ensure all electrical pumps outdoors are protected.
- Drain any water hoses that are kept outdoors. After they have been drained properly, store them in a garage, shed or basement.
- All water supply lines leading to sprinklers should be drained properly.
- If there is a swimming pool, drain its circulation system. Another alternative is to keep the pump motor running, but the pump should only be run during a short freeze. If a pump is run too long, it will become damaged.
- Make sure the thermostat is not set lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This also applies to homes that will be vacant while owners are away.
- To make sure warm air reaches the pipes under sinks, open the cabinets below bathroom, kitchen and utility room sinks.
- Indoor faucets should be dripping very slowly. If they are not dripping, it is easier for the pipes to freeze.
- When leaving town for an extended period of time, turn off the water supply using the shutoff valve. At the same time, leave the faucets running to properly drain the pipes. Before turning the valve back on in the future, make sure the faucets are off.
- After draining pipes at any time, call the local utility company to ask for instructions on proper water heater protection.
If The Pipes Freeze
- If a pipe freezes, turn the water off at the shutoff valve immediately. If the broken pipe cannot be located, call a plumber immediately.
- Avoid using open-flame devices on frozen pipes. This produces a carbon monoxide exposure risk.
- If a pipe is frozen but has not burst, use an electric heating pad to thaw it. A towel soaked in hot water, a space heater or a hair dryer will also suffice. Since cracking ice may cause a pipe to shatter, move the heat source frequently. After doing this, turn on a faucet until the water pressure returns to normal.
- Check a home insurance policy to see if temporary repairs should be made. Keep any receipts.
- If a pipe bursts, review a home insurance policy to see what is covered. Call an agent promptly.
Fire Safety Concerns
Fires are most common during winter months. This is due to the increased use of space heaters and fireplaces. Space heaters are the main sources of fire fatalities during the winter. Fire marshals across the country ask Americans to take the following steps to protect themselves and their homes:
- Never use extension cords for space heaters.
- Heaters should be kept several feet away from flammable items, furniture or drapes.
- All heaters should be placed only on level surfaces and monitored at all times.
- Electric heaters should be kept away from water.
When a cold front sweeps in, it can make temperatures drop well below freezing within a matter of hours. Exposed pipes are at risk, and using heaters adds another type of risk to the mix. By following these simple tips, homeowners can reduce the likelihood of water damage from frozen pipes bursting or the likelihood of fires caused by space heaters. To learn more about individual insurance provisions, discuss concerns with your favorite insurance agent.