Prevent Frozen Pipes

Winter has arrived, enjoy the snow and avoid pipes bursting.

Portland Water Bureau gives this advice:
Cold, freezing weather is on its way — and each time Portland endures this type of weather, some water pipes freeze up. You can avoid a frozen pipe crisis and all of the misery that comes with it – being without water while on a plumber’s long waiting list and thousands of dollars of damage to your walls, floors and furniture – by taking a few simple measures to protect your home.

Here are the basics on preventing freezing pipes:

Outside plumbing
Caulk around pipes where they enter the house. Close all foundation vents. (Open foundation vents are probably the greatest cause of frozen or split water lines.) Cut wood or styrofoam blocks to fit vent openings, then slide them into the vents. (Styrofoam is available at hardware stores or from insulation suppliers.) Open the vents again in the spring to prevent dry rot.

Protect outside pipes and faucets. In some homes, the outside faucet has a separate shut-off in the basement. If you have a separate valve for outside faucets, shut if off. Then go outside and turn on all the faucets to drain water in the lines. Leave the outside faucets on while you go back and check your outside shut-off valve for a small brass plug or cap on the valve. Turn this plug far enough that water drains from the valve. Then, tighten the plug back and turn off all the outside faucets.

Wrap outside faucets or hose bibs. Do this if you don’t have a separate valve to turn off outside faucets. (Also remember to disconnect garden hoses.) Use newspaper or rags covered with plastic, fiberglass or molded foam insulating covers to wrap the faucet. (Molded foam insulating covers are available at plumbing and hardware stores.)

Drain in-ground sprinkler systems. Check manufacturer’s instructions for the best way to do this.

Indoor plumbing
Insulate pipes in unheated areas such as the crawl space, attic, garage or basement. Use insulating tape or molded pipe sleeve and wrap it over the entire length of exposed pipe. Cover all valves, pipe-fittings, etc. with insulating tape or fiberglass. (Check your hardware store for supplies.)

Shut off and drain your water system if you are leaving home for several days. (Turn off the water heater before draining the system.) Leaving your furnace on a low setting while you’re gone helps, but may not prevent freezing. Turn off the main shut-off valve, then go through the house and turn on all faucets, sinks, tubs, showers, etc., and flush the toilets. Go back to the valve and remove the plug so that it can drain completely. Follow-up by re-tightening the valve and turning off the open faucets.

Open cupboard doors in the kitchen and bathrooms. Water lines supplying the kitchen or bathrooms are frequently located in outside walls. Any air leaks in siding or insulation can cause these pipes to freeze. Leaving the cupboard doors open when the temperature is below freezing allows pipes behind the cupboards to get more heat.

Let the water run if the temperature dips below freezing. (A stream slightly smaller than a pencil width should be sufficient.) Faucets farthest from the street should be the ones left running. Using cold water will save on your gas or electric bill.

-Sarah Bott

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