Colder temps coming; save money by protecting water pipes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Steve Huffman
The coldest temperatures of the season will roll into Rowan and surrounding counties over the next couple of days, with Friday morning’s low dropping to about 12 degrees.
In addition to buttoning up those overcoats, area residents are advised to make sure the pipes in their houses are protected from the chill.
Busted pipes are no fun for anyone, and even a brief snap to the low teens is cold enough to do damage.
“It can be a real problem,” said Brandon Basinger of Spencer Plumbing. “I’ve already turned a light on in my well house. I want to be ready for the cold.”
He said there are a number of ways to keep pipes from freezing, and most of them amount to common-sense steps. Close the ventilators around the foundation of your house, Basinger said, keep the wind off the pipes whenever possible.
He said he’s seen PVC pipe freeze and shatter, and said he’s crawled under houses and discovered as many as seven breaks caused by freezing pipes.
The minimum bill that most plumbers charge for a service call, Basinger said, is $100. The price climbs rapidly from there, he said, depending upon the severity of the problem.
It’s best, Basinger said, to take the necessary steps to avoid the problem entirely.
Jody Blythe, a Rowan County resident who works as a plumber part time, said much the same. He said freezing air blowing over pipes causes the crux of the problems, and homeowners can avoid the woes with some simple precautions.
“It’s the exposed pipes that have the worst problems,” Blythe said. “Wrap ’em as best you can. Use heat tape if possible.”
Here are a few tips to protect pipes from the cold of coming days. These tips come courtesy of the Concord Division of Emergency Management:
– Be sure pipes in unheated parts of your house, including crawl spaces, are insulated.
– Leave interior cupboard doors under sinks open, especially if the sink piping is adjacent to an exterior wall.
– Plug drafty cracks and repair broken window panes.
– Remove hoses from outside faucets and be sure they are drained and shut off.
– Advise all household members where the main shut-off valve is located in the event of an emergency.
– If you’re going to be away from home for an extended period, cut off the water and drain the lines.
– Do not turn your furnace below 55 degrees at night or during absences.
– Never try to thaw frozen pipes with an open flame. Use a hair dryer, sweeper exhaust, light bulb or heat tape. Better yet, call a plumber.
– Keep meter box lids closed to prevent cold air from freezing the water meter.
– If you have experienced problems in the past during cold weather, keep a trickle of water running from the faucet highest in the house. This trickle should be a steady stream the size of the lead in a pencil.
– Never use antifreeze to keep pipes from freezing. The chemicals could be drawn back into the water supply and contaminate the system. In addition, antifreeze residue is very difficult to remove from your water pipes.
– After the cold snap, check unused portions of your water system for freezing damage and leaks to avoid possible flooding damage from undetected splits in pipes.