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Upcoming cold snap may pose risk to pipes

Precautions can prevent freezing, bursting pipes

POSTED: January 20, 2014 11:59 p.m.

Frigid weather conditions are returning for several nights this week, with temperatures forecast to dip into the teens.

According to the National Weather Service, tonight’s low is expected to be 19 degrees, with gusts of wind of up to 35 mph. Wednesday should be clear and sunny and is forecast to see a high near 35 and a low of 25. Thursday is predicted to be a bit warmer during the day with a high of 41 and mostly sunny skies, while temperatures will fall to 19 degrees for the night’s low.

For those whose pipes emerged unscathed from the last cold spell, this next bout of freezing weather is expected to pose another threat. However, with the proper precautions, pipes can stand a greater chance against freezing and bursting from harsh conditions.

“For instance, turn the faucets on in your home and let them drip. Moving water is harder to freeze, and doing that and allowing water to run will keep (pipes) protected,” said Scott Roberts, president of Roberts Plumbing in Hall County.

Roberts also recommended opening cabinet doors under sinks, which allows warm air in the house to circulate and help to keep pipes from growing cold enough to freeze.

Additionally, individuals should pay special attention to plumbing on exterior walls and unheated spaces without any insulation, such as attics, garages, crawlspaces and unfinished rooms that leave pipes exposed.

“We have found problems in crawlspaces, and a lot of that had to do with people that didn’t close their crawlspace vents off ... you need to protect those pipes by closing those vents in the crawlspaces to help keep more of the warm air inside of there and not let the cold penetrate,” he said.

Outside faucets are also at risk. Roberts advised that outdoor faucets should be shut off and drained down, then covered with foam faucet covers to help protect lines from freezing and breaking. Foam covers are inexpensive and should be available at any local hardware store, Roberts said.

If you suspect your pipes might be frozen, it is important to take the proper steps to avoid damage.

“If you turn water on and where you normally have water you don’t have any, then chances are that pipe is frozen and at that point the first thing you need to do is turn the water off to your home,” Roberts said.

“We can’t stress that enough ... because when those pipes thaw, they will start releasing water. If you still have the water on, you will come home to a flood, because basically at that point, you have an open pipe in your home that’s running water, so that’s the purpose of shutting the water off,” he said.

Roberts said people are often unaware of where to shut off the water to their house. Most homes should have a shutoff inside, “typically where the water service enters the home. If it’s really inaccessible or you don’t know, you can buy a water meter key at any home improvement store that you can use to shut off your water at your meter,” he added.

One positive aspect of this onset of cold weather as opposed to the arctic blast from two weeks ago is that daytime temperatures are expected to rise above freezing.

“The temperatures we have coming up, they’re different from the last go-around. Last time, we had freezing temps throughout the day and night and naturally, it dipped down more at night, but it stayed below freezing for multiple days. That below-freezing temperature over those multiple days was really what did in a lot of the water piping that did break,” Roberts said.

“What we’re looking at over these next few days here, it’s going to drop below freezing at night, but it’s not going to go to the extreme in temperature that it was prior. During the day, it’s supposed to warm up above freezing, and you’d be surprised at how much heat things can maintain if it warms up above freezing during the day,” he said.


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