Our whole state has been ravaged by the unprecedented storm dubbed “Uri.” This brutal blast of winter is unlike what many of us have ever seen in the state, and our electric grid and water treatment systems paid the price.
With almost four and a half MILLION Texans left without power during this week of below-freezing temperatures, it’s no surprise that a state of emergency was declared.
On a local level here around Keller, we got a LOT of calls the last few days from households with their own emergencies. And from frozen pipes to lack of heat and water, there are several key takeaways from this brutal storm that I want to be the first to share with you.
I’m hoping we never see temperatures like this again. I’m also hopeful that the state will respond appropriately to correct what systems and processes failed so dismally.
However, there are still preemptive precautions homeowners can take, and I think it’s wise we all take them.
Key takeaways for Texas homeowners:
- Know where your water cutoff is
This is, perhaps, one of the most important things to know about your home. I’m not kidding—if you don’t know where this is, put on you coat and go find it NOW.
Once you do know where your cutoff is, you should have a monthly to-do to make sure it’s operational. Just set a calendar reminder to test it regularly. When you test it, be sure to look for dirt that’s collected around it as well as ensure water flows freely.
Ensure you have the tools you need to turn it off, too.
- Add an additional water shutoff in your house
If it was miserable to go outside and look for your water shutoff, that’s just another reason to put another shutoff inside your home. Any licensed plumber can come in and do this. That way, you don’t have to go outside to shut the water off in the case of another emergency…
- Frost-proof your spigots
Speaking of the water cutoff, outdoor spigots need to be frost-proofed, too. Most of us have bought the little caps at some point to put over them…and those typically get us by in Texas. This storm might be an exception that doesn’t repeat itself for a decade or more, but it’s an exception worth preparing for to prevent frozen spigots in the future. Spigot cover “socks” are better for this.
- Pipes in external-facing walls
If your washing machine stopped working this week, it might have been due to frozen pipes in an exterior-facing wall. Most washing machines have their plumbing in external walls, and those pipes remain out of sight and out of mind… then become a lurking problem and accident waiting to happen. You might have heard of folks opening their cabinets to let heat into the walls since so much of kitchen plumbing runs behind cabinets, too.
As long as you do have electricity, running a heater over walls with piping to keep them warm during a storm will help you avoid serious problems later.
Sprinkler systems in Texas typically run piping through the attic, too. That space can get PLENTY cold, so that’s another problem just waiting to get worse…
Of course, the best way to prevent freezing pipes around your washing machine, kitchen plumbing or any other part of your home is to drain the pipes of as much water as possible when a storm is on its way. Go to the shutoff and close the flow of water. Then open all your facets to get as much of that water out of the system as you can.
Another proactive option is to get exterior-facing plumbing insulated. Not only will this protect your plumbing from freezing, it will make the transport of hot water more efficient, which keeps water hotter and allows you to consume less energy in heating it. Insulation is good for ALL your plumbing, so getting it installed will be worthwhile!
- Consider at least a portable generator
Even if you don’t get a whole-home generator, considering at least a portable one will ensure you have heat during a disaster.
If anything happens to the gride in the summertime, you’ll want electricity then, too! Many of these key takeaways aren’t exclusive to winter, actually.
Along with a portable generator, consider buying a small air conditioning and separate heating unit so you can run the smaller units on a small generator. For added protection, a whole-home generator or even a medium-sized generator can at least ensure you keep your fridge, freezer and other necessities running during an emergency.
- Make sure you have PLENTY of water
Stock up on water now. Even after this disaster, Texas is no stranger to extreme summer heat! Making it a practice to have water on hand will not only keep you safer, it will also give you peace of mind.
Most of the Texans who were under a water boil advisory the last few days have NEVER experienced that before…and it’s scary. Keeping water on-hand is an easy way to feel more confident no matter what the world throws at us.
- Take care of pool equipment
Whenever it falls below freezing, if you’ve lost electricity and have a pool, you need to take care of your pool equipment so it doesn’t freeze. Start by turning off the breaker (even if you don’t have electricity). Only then should you pull the plugs and drain all the equipment of water.
- Know your insurance policies
Whatever type of insurance policy you have, ensure you know ALL the ins and outs. Go over your policy and see if you have replacement coverage or depreciated value coverage…and know what your deductible is, too. Even a 1% deductible on a $500,000 house is $5K out of pocket.
Look at what your policy does and doesn’t cover. There are plans out there that won’t cover water loss, which is VERY disappointing for many Texans this week.
There are parts of your policy that will talk about “mitigating loss,” too. This could determine what service is covered or not covered if you opt to go with a specific provider who’s only able to come out after a certain day.
- Call your handyman
If you’re not sure what products are needed to keep your home safe, or what that tool is I mentioned that you’ll need to close your water shutoff, these and MANY other questions are worth asking a professional about.
We’re online to answer those questions for you.
Just think about what all these “best practices” mean for homeowners with a second home, too. Getting out to the lake would have been impossible for just about everyone this week…
And yet, this checklist of key takeaways can easily be executed on regular visits to your vacation home in the future.
Staying ahead of this kind of maintenance can save a homeowner thousands of dollars in repair later. It can also help take the edge off during a truly horrendous week.
So, how are y’all holding up? We’ve been SUPER busy sending the guys out to help households in serious need…and we wouldn’t change that for the world. Rob and I have been without power and water, ourselves, but the biggest takeaway for us this week was knowing what positive impact we could have for our clients in this time of need.
Have any storm photos to share? Questions? Start the conversation with us!