The Crisis Planner

A Community Dedicated to Providing Guidance to Create Your Personal and Natural Disaster Plans


freeze-clipart-2937325376_brrr1Here comes the Deep Freeze.  After what was the mildest Fall and early winter in memory Winter 2016 is determined not to disappoint.  With 3 snow events in the past 3 weeks we now face the coldest temps of the year.  With temps down near 0 the next couple of days I would like to share some tips to keep you safe and warm while snuggling with your Valentine.

The entire north central, and north east of the United States has been plunged into a deep freeze.  Baby it’s cold outside. We are freezing with no forecast for a thaw until next week. We can complain all we want, but we cannot change the weather. It is what it is. What we can control is how we prepare for the conditions we face.

Nothing is more comforting than to sit in front of your fireplace, woodstove, or gas fireplace on a winter day.  Yet so many of us enjoying these appliances are at risk of freezing our pipes when it is very cold and windy.  So how can you avoid freezing your pipes and still enjoy the ambiance these appliances provide?

You are probably wondering how the gas fireplace or wood stove could cause the pipes to freeze. While they keep the part of the house they are in toasty. The problem is one of motion. Water in motion does not freeze. If the house is warm enough, the thermostat will not call for the heat to come on. The water in the heating pipes will not circulate. The lack of circulation combined with extreme weather conditions makes them vulnerable to freezing. Pipes in overhangs that are poorly insulated combined with high wind chill conditions create a perfect storm for frozen pipes.

This is only one way pipes freeze. This, however, is not the most common reason pipes freeze in the winter. We are experiencing winter weather with very high winds combined with very cold temperatures. A high probability of power outages exists under these conditions. Most often pipes freeze when there is a power outage during the winter. The longer the power is out the higher the risk. What can you do to prevent pipes from freezing and how can you minimize the damage if they do?freezing-cold-thermometer-icon-weather-clipart-illustration-33130093

First lets look at what we could do to prevent pipes from freezing when using an alternate heat source. The easiest thing to do is to make sure that the water in your heating systems circulates every few hours. Go to each zone in your home and turn up the thermostat until you hear the water start to circulate. Make sure to keep the heat up for at least 15 to 20 minutes to insure that your pipes are fully heated.

If you don’t hear the water moving, but you hear your circulator working you may already have a frozen spot in the pipes. See if you can identify where the freeze point could be. If the pipe has not burst, you have a chance to defrost it before it does. Look for vulnerable spots in overhangs or bay windows, where the pipes have bends. Feel the pipe, if it is frozen it will be very cold. Gently warm the pipe with a hair dryer until the water starts to move. The pipe may be frozen in more than one place. You may have to move from one spot to another until you open up the flow. I know this works because I have fallen victim to my own wood stove keeping my home so warm the heat did not come on.

If at any point you see water leaking from a potentially frozen pipe you will have to turn off the water supply. That means you will have to turn off your heat completely. You will have to call a plumber to make repairs.

If you have had issues with frozen pipes in the past or it happens frequently you may want to invest in having heat tapes installed on those pipes that tend to freeze. These tapes use electricity to keep the pipes warm and prevent freezing. Of course this will not help in the event of a power outage.

images (3)What can you do to protect your home if there is a power outage. You will be using your alternate heat source in that situation. You are going to need all the heat you can get from your alternate heat source. If you know you have places that your pipes are vulnerable to freezing allow the air to circulate. Pull furniture out away from the wall if you have to.

If you have a portable generator, it is advisable to have a special circuit wired to run your heating plant and circulators. This is something that should be done long before you need it. Running your generator 2 hours at a time 3 or 4 times a day may be all you need to keep your pipes from freezing and will keep your home fairly livable when combined with other alternate heating sources.

If you are away on vacation, when a power outage occurs you can also be susceptible to frozen pipes. This can result in a nasty surprise when you come home. If you are planning a winter vacation, or if you snow bird it is important to have a system to monitor the power and temperature conditions in the home, and notify you. Have a neighbor, friend or family member that you trust check on your home while you are gone to insure that the heat is on and that there are no issues with frozen pipes.

Protect your home with proper planning to avoid the catastrophic damage of frozen pipes. You will be glad you did…


Linda Fostek

The Crisis Planner