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Pipes Freezing?

It’s cold. It’s an Indiana winter. Not only do you need to keep your furnace running, but during the winter season in cold weather climates, there is a chance of the pipes in your home freezing. Frozen pipes and the trouble they can cause are a nuisance. Worse case scenario, your frozen pipes will burst and cause major damage to your home. Not something anyone wants to deal with.

Before the temperatures outside drop too low, make sure you have your home ready. Here are some tips to keep your pipes from freezing and in turn keep your home a little bit safer.

First, disconnect all of the garden hoses from the spigots outside. All spigots outside should be frost-free. If your spigots are frost-free, when you turn the water off on the outside frost-free spigot, the water is actually turned of further back in the pipe. On a frost-free spigot, there is a long stem on the hose bib that extends through the wall, back into your home where the home is heated. Basically, when you turn off the water outside, it shuts off back inside the home. The water remaining in the pipe, which extends beyond that inside shutoff point, drains down and out. This leaves the portion of the hose bib, that is outside and is exposed to weather and cold temperatures, completely empty.  A pipe that is empty cannot be frozen and therefore will not burst open. A froze pipe bursts because the water inside freezes and when it freezes it expands. The expanding of the pipe causes it to split or crack and then bursts, leaking water into your house.

When should you disconnect the hoses?
Well, that could be a loaded question.  The answer depends on the region where you live and what the weather patterns and conditions are.  A good habit to get into would be to disconnect your garden hoses at the end of the growing season when you probably won’t use the outside spigot. Store the hoses inside or in a garage.

Let’s discuss taking care of pipes on the interior of you home. Whether you are at home or on a trip, make sure that your home’s temperature stays at 55°F or warmer. This will help to keep your pipes at a temperature where they won’t freeze. Any pipes that are on exterior walls should be wrapped an insulated, this includes pipes in your crawl spaces. Crawl spaces and basements should be sealed and insulated. Open-air vents near pipes should be covered or closed and any broken or open windows need to be closed and sealed to prevent cold air from seeping in. Drafts from vents or open windows combined with freezing temperatures can cause pipes to freeze. Basements should be also be heated to at least that 55°F temperature mark, but we would suggest much higher.

On cold days or nights, open the cabinet doors of your bathroom vanity or kitchen cabinets where pipes under the sink are located on exterior walls. Opening the cabinet doors will allow heat from your home to circulate around the pipes and keep them warm. You can also allow your faucet to drip slightly, using lukewarm water, when the temperatures dip outside. This will allow warm water to continue to circulate through your pipes, keeping them above a temperature where they might freeze.

What is a sign that your pipes may be freezing?
The first sign is reduced water flow or pressure from a faucet or spigot. If you see this and can get to your pipe, a hair dryer can help to thaw the frozen pipe. (Safety warning: Do not use a hair dryer around standing water.) You can also heat water on the stove (if you can get enough), soak towels in the hot water and wrap them around the cold sections of the exposed pipes. When the towels cool, remove them and repeat the process. In all instances, start thawing the pipe closest to the faucet and move your way back and make sure the faucet is turned on so that the melted water can drip out.

One sure fire thing you should do as a homeowner makes sure that everyone in your house knows where the main water shut off valve is located. Yes, everyone. You may not be home when an emergency happens, so it might be up to your teenage daughter to turn the water off. Wouldn’t you rather take the time to show everyone instead of trying to explain it to a panicked household member over the phone? You can even tag the shut off so that in an emergency one knows they have shut off the correct valve. Also, identify the valve on your water heater as this is another valve that may come in handy in an emergency.

If a pipe does burst, the first thing to do is shut off the home’s water at the main valve. Of course, you know where this is because you had already located and tagged it, right? Now, call Godby. You need a plumber and fast. Whether for basic HVAC maintenance, electrical help or a plumbing emergency, Godby is the one name you need to know- three trades, one team- It’s Gotta be Godby.

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