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Ah, winter! There is an undeniable charm to be found in the beauty of ice. Icicles hanging from trees, frosted grass in the morning sun, frozen ponds, lakes, and waterfalls, even frozen castles. Ice in your pipes, however, is the antithesis of charming.
The most noticeable sign of a frozen pipe is a lack of water flow. You turn on the faucet or flush the toilet and it becomes immediately clear that something is missing. Other signs include bulging of the pipe, frost on the pipe, or even an odor coming from the faucet.
What to do About It
First thing to do is find the freeze; use the signs above to locate the culprit. If you notice evidence of damage to the pipe proceed no further without shutting off the water supply to that pipe or the entire house, you might even want to just give your plumber a call at this point. If there is damage, most of the mess is going to be the result of the thawing process. If there is no damage to the pipes, leaving the water on while you thaw can actually help move things along.
Next you’ll want to open the faucet before you start. Thawing the freeze is going to result in steam and water, meaning more pressure. Leaving the faucet opens gives this pressure an outlet and prevents a potential burst.
Now you can start thawing your pipes. Always work your way from the open faucet down to prevent a buildup of pressure. Failing to start from the faucet can lead to a burst pipe! The method you use is mostly going to be decided by where the freeze is located and how accessible it is. An exposed pipe can be pretty easy to tend to. Firstly, NEVER use an open flame to thaw your pipes, this is a fire hazard that can lead to more damage than it’s worth.
One of the easiest ways to solve your problem is a hair dryer, simply point it at the freeze and wait. A portable space heater or heating lamp will also do the trick in most instances. Same concept as the hair dryer, point it in the direction of the freeze and wait for the magic to happen. Wrapping the frozen pipe in hot towels is a slower method but can also be effective. Lastly, for accessible pipes, you can wrap them in electrical heating tape. The most convenient part of heating tape is that it can be left on the pipes and plugged in as needed, making it not only an effective way to thaw your pipes, but also an effective way to prevent a future freeze.
What if the Frozen Pipe is not Accessible?
If you cannot physically access your frozen pipe, not all hope is lost, but it does prevent you from seeing if the pipes have sustained any damage prior to starting the thawing process. What you do next is going to be determined by your comfort level. One thing you can do to thaw a pipe you can't get to is crank up the heat. If you know the location of the freeze, you can also try directing an infrared lamp at the wall behind which the pipe is located. Another DIY option for an inaccessible pipe is to make it accessible. If you have the know how, cut out the section of drywall between you and the freeze then use your desired method. Of course, never do something outside of your comfort zone and call a plumber instead.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” - Ben Franklin
If you would simply prefer to circumvent the entire thawing process your best bet is to do everything you can to prevent your pipes from catching a chill in the first place. If you have exposed, uninsulated pipes the temperature only needs to drop to 20 degrees Fahrenheit to run the risk of freezing. Keep your garage door closed and your cabinets open. If your garage houses water lines it is best to keep the door closed as often as possible. Conversely, leaving open the cabinets inside your home that house pipes will help keep them warm. Make sure your home is properly insulated, especially the basement, the attic, and crawl spaces. You can also insulate the pipes themselves. Check for cracks in the walls where pipes live and repair them right away. On the coldest nights, allow your faucets to drip cold water. Just the tiniest bit of water flow will do volumes to keep everything from freezing over. If you’re concerned about your water bill, bear in mind that the damage caused by a burst pipe can easily surpass $5,000 dollars, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. As warm weather comes to a close, be sure to drain and shut off outdoor water lines as well.
In most aspects of home ownership prevention is your best measure. It also wouldn't hurt to check with your insurance company to verify what your policy covers. Some policies will only cover the damage to the pipes and not the water damage cause by the resulting leak. Often times you will find that you are only covered if it is clear you did everything in your power to prevent the catastrophe in the first place.
Protect your pipes, protect your home, and try to stay warm this winter!
Written and Researched by Victoria Buckwash
Its starting to cool down out there, meaning it's time to schedule your furnace for a check up from your local HVAC professional before the leaves begin to change.
What Might a Tune-up Include?
Make sure you thoroughly discuss with your HVAC contractor what is included in their services so you can keep a record of maintenance for your warranty. What is included in an annual tune-up will vary by contractor, most will include:
Why Service Your Furnace?
Furnace malfunctions can be costly and dangerous. Regularly servicing your furnace will help you avoid getting blindsided by exorbitant repair costs, or ending up without heat when you need it most. Regular service will also ensure that your heating system is running as efficiently as possible, so you know you're getting the most out of that heating bill you have to pay every month. If you find yourself sad about the cost of your annual furnace maintenance, remember that you’re going to much more upset if you have to pay for emergency service in the middle of winter.
Remember to always contact your gas provider IMMEDIATELY if you smell gas and make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are working.
Written and Researched By: Victoria Buckwash
Just because it’s cooling down doesn't mean it's time to pack up the lawn equipment. Quite the opposite in fact! Fall means it’s time to prep your lawn for winter to ensure happy healthy grass come spring. This is a critical time for the health of your lawn, if you look forward to walking around barefoot in the lush grass of spring you need to tend to that grass now. Here are some things you should do this fall to ensure your grass is greener on the other side of winter.
We are all eager to put the mower away for the winter but don't get too eager. Your grass will continue to grow until the first frost. Letting it get too long before winter is a good way to set yourself up for sad grass come spring. Optimal grass height for the cooler months is about 2&½ inches. Too long and you risk fungi growth, like snow mold, appearing at the end of winter. Too short and you inhibit root growth. So keep that mower running at the correct height until Jack Frost makes his first visit. When it's time to pack it in don't forget to winterize your mower to ensure that it’s ready to go come spring.
Autumn is a wonderful time to be a Pennsylvanian. The air finally begins to cool after what was a hellish summer (as always). Penn’s woods turns more colors than the mind can conjure. PA farmers are getting ready to harvest apples, pumpkins and strange looking squash in abundance, as well as convert those shriveled corn fields into mazes and other family fun activities. Mums are out, scarecrows are out, and of course, Halloween is right around the corner! As I write this I can already smell the cool air, tinged with fallen leaves and hay, and see in my minds eye skeletons, candy corn, and a mug of spiked apple cider. Ahhhh. Yet, as quickly as these images are conjured, they are derailed by the one thing that I dread every fall. It crawls to the forefront of my fall memories and covers up the smell of leaves, and hay, and apples with its own dreaded odor. You know what I’m talking about. Halyomorpha Halys, better known as the Stink Bug.