How to Avoid Costly Freeze Problems
Families in the northern states are no stranger to cold weather and its impact on their homes. Structural and mechanical systems have a BIG burden come winter because they simultaneously have to protect the rest of the home and work harder to function right.
When the temps fall double digits below zero, these homes face weeks or months of snow and ice.
In 2021, we were reminded that Texas can be hard hit, too. You might even say that our unsuspecting selves suffered an especially brutal deal considering how few households were prepared.
At its peak, the February 2021 “Storm Uri” left around 4.5 million homes and businesses without power, not to mention impacted by frozen or burst pipes.
The estimated damage across the state came to around $295 billion, and the storm became the single biggest insurance claim event in Texas history.
By taking a few easy preventative measures, you instantly reduce your risk of frozen pipes no matter what this winter brings. You protect yourself from flooding and you furnace or home from structural damage. You get ahead of sneaky mold, too! And you also help your plumbing live an extended life…
See how easy some of these precautions can be. Why not check one off your list today?
Preventing Frozen Pipes
There are three primary causes of frozen pipes:
- Abnormally rapid drop in temperature
- Thermostat set too low
- Poor insulation
Here are the simple steps you can take NOW before any early freeze to keep your home protected and your family comfortable…
- Insulate your pipes, especially those in your crawl spaces or attic. These are some of the first areas where freezes happen in pipes, especially in parts of the country (like Texas) where freezes are uncommon. These pipes are exposed, making them more susceptible. More IS better when it comes to insulation, by the way…you can never over-insulate!!
- Use heat tape (or thermostatically-controlled heat cables). This sounds super techy, but your local handyman can help you choose the right product and get it installed. Look for products that are approved by an independent testing organization and that specify use for interior or exterior pies (whichever you’re taping).
- Find and seal any AIR leaks…that’s not what you expected, was it? Finding leaks that let cold air inside your home gives you better control over the temps throughout. Pay special attention to leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents and pipes. Seal them all with quality caulking.
- Secure your outdoor hoses, valves and faucets!! I can’t count how many outdoor spigots we secured in February after the storm…this year, let’s all get it done BEFORE winter hits! Start by disconnecting your garden hoses and putting caps on your outdoor spigots.
- Clean your gutters no later than Halloween. This gives the leaves time to fall, but then you also clear gutters soon enough to reduce the chance of ice forming on your roof. And while you’re up there, install gutter screens to keep leaves from falling into and freezing inside of spouts…
- Adjust your thermostat and get used to one, constant temperature. Pick the temp that’s comfortable for you, but remember, if you’re too conservative with that temp then you risk problems with your pipes. Plan on keeping your thermostat the same temperature day and night, too, because the extreme cold that hits at night can put undue strain on your furnace.
Preparing for Vacation in Freeze Season
Whenever you leave your home for extended periods, you invariably have home safety on your mind.
Did I lock the doors?
Is the thermostat set?
Is the garage closed?
When you leave your home during any time of the year when a freeze (early or late) could strike, consider shutting off the water to your house and draining the plumbing system. This will save you fretting about bursting pipes while you’re gone.
TIP: And, of course, we ARE in the age of “smart homes…” There are freeze alarms you can purchase, too, which monitor the temperature in your home and send you an alert if temps drop to a dangerous level. Some of these systems are as affordable as $50. A worth investment, I’d say!
TIP: Digital thermostats, too, are essentially app-controlled peace of mind for you on vacation…you can check, set, lower or raise temperatures in your home from your phone, no matter where you are. Digital thermostats are also one of the “9 home gifts people actually WANT!” Nice tip as we get into holiday season…
Whether it’s a friend or neighbor, ask someone to stop at your home to take in the mail and check on things while you’re away.
At Signature Home Services, all our clients who are part of the Signature Home Maintenance Club (SHMC) have the added benefit that we personally visit their homes to check all major systems while they’re out. Not a bad idea to have an award-winning handyman check your home systems while you’re out of town!!
If Pipes Do Freeze…
Pipes do NOT just burst when frozen.
Sometimes, they slow water flow.
Other times, they block it all together.
If you turn on a faucet and nothing comes out, here’s what to do:
- Call a plumber. Leave the faucet turned on.
- If a pipe has already burst, shut off the main water valve for your home.
- Avoid using appliances that use or are near water until the plumber comes.
- Do NOT use electrical appliances in any area where there’s a flood risk.
- Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or open flame. Use a hair dryer (with caution).
Here’s to hoping this winter does NOT bring us any storms like “Uri”. Hoping for the best and preparing for the worst, however, is part of being a homeowner!
Which of these precautions can you check off your list today??
Check out this infographic with more tips to winterize your home…and remember, we’re around if you have any questions!!