Essential Tips To Protecting Your Home From The Polar Vortex

frozen pipe

Given the recent cold snap, where temperatures have struggled to reach above 20 degrees for over two weeks throughout most of the northeast and midwest, freezing pipes are suddenly pushed to the top or homeowner’s awareness lists.

Many people who own homes in multiple locations, specifically northern families vacationing in Florida or southern California for the winter months, lack the understanding that below freezing temperatures could leave their home with expensive interior and exterior pipeline damage and possible flooding.

Doesn’t sound like fun, right? By following these simple preventive measures, you should be okay during this unusually cold weather.

Mother Nature Has No Emotions – Protect Your Home

Unfortunately, Mother Nature is one of those women in life that you can’t always please, and she doesn’t care about your feelings. The only way to come out ahead during her worst months is to prepare. If you own a home in a cold climate, with temperatures reaching below 32 degrees for more than two months, you may want to listen up.

Prepare Exterior Plumbing

First, work on the exterior of the house, shutting off water supply from the main source in the house that feeds water to the exterior hoses located around the exterior of the building. This main water source is usually located near the washer/dryer or water heater in the utility closet or garage. After shutting off this connection, drain the pipe of all existing water. This is the most essential part of the preparation because freezing pipes are less likely to burst or snap if they are empty.

When all of the exterior faucets have been drained, unhook any attached hoses and cover with a cheap sealing kit purchased at a local home improvement store. If you want to use a  makeshift device, cover the entrance into the faucet, as well as the exposed pipe, with insulation tape and a plastic bag to protect the tape from damage.

If the pipe is leaking, even after shutting off the main line, contact a plumber immediately before the cold weather turns the dripping water leak into ice buildup within the pipe. This is how most bursts, cracks and implosions occur within house piping systems.

Optimize Water Heater

The next step is to optimize the water heater within your home and regularly check for corrosion or sediment buildup caused by the cold temperatures. First, set water heater thermostat to 120 F for optimum performance, then remove any sediment from the water heater tank every week. Finally, make sure that your furnace is set for no lower than 55 degrees during the coldest months. This will lower the pressure within the pipes, reducing your risk of a cracked pipe.

Keep Gutters Clear

Your last task during snowfall is to clear passage of drainage areas for pipes and gutters. Yes, this may require you to get on the roof and clear the gutters from snow accumulation. If the snow melts and freezes over again, any chance of proper drainage during the next precipitation is pretty much lost. Also, make sure to close, cover, and insulate the water meter if it’s exposed to the elements in order to avoid cracking or breaking.

Regulate Indoor Temperatures

Within your house, keep your temperature above 55 degrees at all times to avoid pipes freezing within walls, especially exterior walls with pipes that are facing sub-freezing temperatures. During very cold nights, it may be wise to run a drip or very low flow consistently through the pipes of your bathroom or kitchen sinks. Although this will cost you money, basic chemistry tells us that moving water, given its density, cannot freeze. The water will continue to keep the pipes flowing during sub-zero temperatures when insulation becomes more irrelevant.

What Happens if the Pipes do Freeze?

After all of the previously measures, your pipes still may freeze over. Before calling a plumber, try to turn cold water through the drain closest to the frozen pipe – this will alleviate the pressure within the pipe. NEVER EVER run warm or hot water down the pipe, this will crack your pipe for sure. The warm or hot water will cause expansion within the pipe and increase the pressure even more. If this doesn’t work then its probably time to call a plumber.

Just remember to always prepare for the worst, but enjoy the best. Stay warm for the rest of the season.

This article was written by Matthew Hall from Bob Heinmiller Solar in Orlando, Florida. Matthew is an avid blogger who enjoys researching and writing about various topics.