The presence of the Polar Vortex this winter has sent temperatures plummeting and delivered windchills in the negative numbers for several days in a row. These hazardous conditions not only present immediate concerns of frostbite and treacherous driving conditions, but also significant dangers that can affect our homes. Here are some tips to keeping your home safe before the frigid winter weather strikes.
- Insulate pipes or faucets in unheated areas
Any pipes that run through an unheated garage or crawl space should be wrapped to help prevent freezing. Use insulating tape or molded flexible pipe sleeves can be used to wrap over the length of the exposed pipe.
- Protect water meter
Be sure your lid is not broken or missing if you have an outdoor water meter located in a pit. Indoor meters located in an unheated area should be protected with an insulated box that is marked clearly. Water meters are your responsibility to protect. If it becomes damaged, replacements start at $130.
- Eliminate drafts
Repair any broken or cracked windows. Make sure basement windows and doors close tightly. Close off crawl space vents and openings. Caulk around any door frames, windows or pipes where they enter the house to reduce incoming cold.
- Disconnect and drain outdoor hoses and sprinkler system
By disconnecting outdoor hoses, this allows the pipe that feeds the outdoor spigot to drain and can help prevent a hard freeze from bursting the outdoor faucet or the pipe leading to it. Drain and coil hoses inside the garage to prevent damage. Be sure to also consult manufacturer instructions on draining your sprinkler system to avoid freezing and further damage.
- Locate main water shut-off valve
Most homes have a main shut-off valve that will allow you to turn off all water coming into the house. This valve can usually be found where the main water line enters the house. If a pipe should break in the house, you can turn off the water at this main valve. Brightly mark this main valve and be sure all family members know where it is located.
Once the arctic temperatures have made their way in, there are some additional tasks to accomplish to keep freezing air and frozen water from damaging your home:
- Open doors below sinks
If the sink is located against an exterior wall, opening the cabinet door will allow warm air to reach the pipes.
- Let the water run
Let a small stream of lukewarm water, about the size of a pencil lead, run from each faucet, especially if you have pipes located in an exterior wall or under a slab. Don’t forget to include the bathtub and shower. This will keep water moving through pipes and will keep pipes from freezing. This can help you avoid costly repairs if a pipe freezes and bursts.
- Keep garage door closed
If you have any exposed pipes in the garage, or your water meter is located in the garage, keep the door shut to hold in some warmth and keep pipes from freezing.
If despite your best attempts, your pipes freeze up, thaw the exposed area with a hair dryer on a low setting. Wave the stream of warm air back and forth along the pipe until water flows through the pipe. Never use a torch or open flame. If the frozen pipes are not exposed, shut off the main water valve and set up a portable heater where the pipes enter the house. It may take some time, but eventually, the pipes will warm up again. If you switch the main water valve on and water runs out the faucet, then you know your pipes are fine. If the pipe has already frozen and burst or leaked, shut off the main water valve immediately at the master shut-off to prevent flooding and extensive water damage. Unless you are experienced at fixing pipes, it may be time to call it quits and request the services of a plumber to repair the break or leak.
For more information on building a safe home for winter conditions, contact your Louisville custom builder here and we will make an appointment to discuss all of your building and safety needs.