While this may not be an everyday issue in Georgia, our winter temperatures are known to drop low enough to cause pipes to crack or burst. In fact, even a tiny crack in a pipe can leak hundreds of gallons of water causing flooding and structural damage and leading to toxic mold growth as well.
For example, that crazy cold blast that hit north Georgia in January of 2014 resulted in more than 13,000 frozen pipes in Atlanta alone. Often, you will know that you have an issue if you suddenly have no water. But interestingly, the damage doesn’t occur when the water freezes, but as the pipes start to thaw. Additionally, hot water lines are the first to freeze because hot water is denser than cold water, so pay particular attention to pipes around your water heater. (And side note: plumbers can be quite picky about using the phrase “water heater” rather than “hot water heater,” and they are technically correct. If the water is already hot, why are you heating it?)
Taking precautions before the weather gets sub-freezing can help to prevent a huge mess. Here are some tips on what to do to protect your home or office:
- Insulate your pipes. Wrap all pipes with foam insulation that you can purchase inexpensively at nearly any home improvement store. Those that are exposed or on an outside wall are the most at risk, but it is ideal to insulate all the pipes you can reach to be protected.
- Secure outdoor faucets and hoses. When possible, shut off your outside water using an indoor valve and drain all water from the pipes leading to the outside faucets. This will keep you from having issues in any portion of the pipe. Also, disconnect and drain outdoor hoses and put them away during winter months if they are not being used.
- Seal leaks. If you can feel a cold draft from any of your windows or doors, seal the leaks. This is especially important for leads around electrical wiring, dryer vents and pipes.
- Open cabinet doors. If it looks like it is going to freeze, open your kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow the heat from the house to get into these spaces, especially those that contain pipes that are near external walls. This is especially important to do overnight when temperatures drop to their lowest.
- Let water drip. To prevent freezing pipes, it is a good idea to let warm water drip from your faucets, particularly those that are on the outside walls of your house.
- Close your garage. It is not uncommon for a hot water heater and other pipes to live in your garage, so it is important to keep it as warm as you can during cold snaps. Keep the door closed, seal up any drafty areas and insulate all pipes there too.
- Set your thermostat to no lower than 55 degrees F. Even if you are on vacation, keep your thermostat set at 55 to ensure your house stays warm enough while you are gone. You may spend a bit more on utility bills than you’d like, but it is much better than paying for water damage when you return.
- Know where your water shutoff is located. If a pipe does burst, you don’t want to be running around looking for the shutoff valve. Once you know where it is located, do not store anything in its path and check to make sure it is in good working order. If it is rusty or doesn’t close completely, get it replaced right away by a professional plumber. Also, make sure everyone in your house knows where the shutoff value is located and how to turn off the water in case an emergency arises when you are not home.
By taking these steps, you greatly decrease the likelihood of your pipes bursting and wreaking havoc on your home or office. And if the worst does happen, we are ready to come to your aid and return your home to its original condition.