Just as it looked like we weren’t getting a winter, the cold has returned. This coming week, in our service area, snow is expected to accumulate anywhere from six to twelve inches. With the snow, comes dramatic drops in temperature which could cause some unforeseen issues if left without care. And one of those issues is frozen pipes. When a pipe bursts because of freezing, it can rapidly cause thousands of dollars in water damage to your property. Making sure exposed piping is wrapped in insulation is one way to avoid such an issue, but exterior spigots should be shut off and the excess water within the pipe drained. Last year alone we were involved in dozens of burst pipe claims that cost home owners over one hundred and thirty three thousand in total damage. Some bursts effected kitchens which completely destroyed cabinets, while others ripped through multiple floors leaving behind water damage that took days to remediate. So, be sure to check your pipes as the temps drop for the next week to avoid the potential of major water damage restoration.
You may be feeling warm in your home as the snow serenely falls outside. But, up on your roof, a dangerous situation could be forming – one that can compromise your roof and lead to water damage inside your home. It’s all the result of an ice dam. If you live in a snowy area and you’re not familiar with what an ice dam is, it’s imperative that you read on.
What Is an Ice Dam?
An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms along the edge of your roof and prevents snow melt from running off. It often occurs because heat from the attic warms the middle of your roof, causing snow to melt. When that runoff reaches the eaves, or overhang, of your roof, the cooler surface temperature (there’s no heat rising from inside your home to this part of the roof) can cause the water to refreeze. As this happens over and over, an ice dam forms, preventing melted snow from running off your roof.
Do Ice Dams Cause Damage?
Yes, ice dams cause the water from melted snow to back up under the shingles of your roof and into your home – the water doesn’t have anywhere else to go. This can damage your roof, not to mention your interior. And, remember, water damage can lead to toxic mold inside your home.
How Can I Prevent Ice Dams?
An easy way to help prevent ice dams is to keep your eaves, gutters, downspouts and drains clear. This way water can drain away from your home as snow melts on your roof. It’s ideal to have your gutters cleaned out before snow season even begins. While you’re at it, install gutter screens for added protection.
Here are some other ways to help prevent ice dams:
- Keep your attic cool. Proper insulation between your living areas and attic will help keep warm air from escaping into your attic and warming your roof. Ideally, during a snow storm, your attic won’t be more than 10 degrees warmer than the temperature outside.
- Remove snow with a roof rake. Only if you can safely do so, remove accumulated snow from your roof using a long-handled roof rake, a specialized tool for clearing roofs, that won’t damage your roofing material. Do this from the ground. Never climb on top of a snowy roof.
- Update your roof with materials that help prevent ice dams. These include a rubberized, water-repellant membrane underneath the shingles and a heating cable along the eaves. For either installation, consult a professional.
Ice dams may not be the first thing you think about once the snow stops coming down. After all, there’s the sidewalk and driveway to clear. But, for the sake of your roof and the integrity of your overall home, it’s important to keep an eye out for this winter roof danger.
So, how can you spot ice dams? Icicles may be a sign of ice dams, a buildup of snow and ice along your eaves that blocks water runoff. Discolored ceilings or walls may indicate that your ice dam has turned into a leak. Remember, in the midst of this harsh winter, it’s important to keep your gutters clear, your roof updated and an eye out for the signs of ice dams. If you suspect trouble, call a trusted roofing contractor at once.
Until recently, not many people knew what an Arctic Vortex is, but with one bearing down on the northern U.S. over the next few days, everybody’s talking about it. As it brings record-breaking cold, here’s what you need to know to keep your pipes from freezing.
“Preparation is key,” says Pat Porzio, heating ventilation and air conditioning manager for Russo Brothers Plumbing in East Hanover, NJ. “Cut some blocks out of foam insulation to block off foundation vents leading to crawl spaces and know where your water shutoff is located in case a pipe breaks,” Porzio advises. Another item homeowners should have on hand is a temporary patch kit (sold at home centers) to seal off burst pipes as they wait for favorable weather to make a permanent repair or to hire a plumber to sweat in a new length of pipe. “Above all,” Porzio says,” find out which local plumbers are equipped and ready to handle frozen pipes.”
If you live in an old house built over an uninsulated crawl space, this isn’t the time to worry about your heating bill. Turning up your thermostat will increase the air temperature in the crawlspace by projecting heat energy through the floor into the space. Plan on insulating and air sealing the space.
Take a ride to the nearest home center and pick up a package or two of unfaced fiberglass insulation. While you’re there, get a set of heavy duty disposable coveralls, a dust mask, work gloves and a package of fresh utility knife blades. Don the protective work wear, load the fresh blades in the knife and assess your insulation needs in the attic, crawl space or other out-of-the-way place installing insulation over poorly-protected pipes. This is one scenario where neatness doesn’t count, just get the insulation where it needs to go.
Use Foam Board To Insulate Large Areas
Got a really big area to protect? Keep the heat in with a rough-and-ready barrier built with foam board. Faced or unfaced foam board will work, especially if this is a temporary set up. If you’ve never worked with foam board, it’s easy to cut. Mark its surface with a carpenter’s pencil or a Sharpie pen. Score to the depth of a utility knife (if need be, score it from both sides) and snap it on the line. Hold it to wood framing with 1-1/4-in or 1-5/8-in. coarse-thread drywall screws.
Install A Heating Cable
Install a heat trace cable to keep a cold pipe from freezing. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the packaging for how to do this. Some heat tapes are wrapped around the pipe, others simply run along it. If you can’t find heat trace cable at your local home center, try an electrical supply house. Sometimes this cable is cut to length from a roll, in which case you may have to buy a kit (or separate parts) to convert into a working heat trace cable. In other cases, the cable is sold ready to use, with one end safely terminated and insulated and the other end with an electrical plug.
Place A Space Heater
You can keep unprotected pipes above freezing by simply placing an electric heater near them. Remember, the goal is not to make the space toasty warm and comfortable. It’s to keep the water in the pipe above freezing.
Turn Off The Water
In the worst case, turn off the main water valve while the house is unoccupied or while you sleep. If a pipe freezes and breaks, the spillage is limited only to the water in the pipe.
Open Cabinet Doors
It’s not unusual for plumbing running to a kitchen sink on an exterior wall to be extremely vulnerable because the wall is not insulated. Open the cabinet doors along that wall to project heat into the space. Place an electric heater in front of the cabinets for an extra measure of cold protection.
Spring can’t seemingly get here fast enough and today we brace for a wintry mix with the possibility of snow even though it’s April 9th. With that being said, this is a quick reminder to avoid costly water damage to your home which then could result in mold growth from broken pipes. The last few weeks the weather has spiked to the 70’s, and many people have turned their spigots back on to wash their fronts, cars, etc. Those pipes should be drained and turned back off today prior to the temperature dropping below freezing. In the Delaware Valley, we could see the temps dropping to 25 degrees, and that’s enough to cause pipes to freeze especially if the water is on. This could cause swelling within the copper and a crack that will result in water damage to your home. Water damage restoration is the process of removing damaged materials while structurally drying the property to avoid further damage and the potential of mold. If left untreated, then the initial loss will become more severe due to water wicking and also result in microbial growth which then will require extensive mold remediation. So be sure to spend the few minutes of turning off your exterior plumbing, protecting any interior plumbing which is at risk, and save yourself what could potentially be thousands of dollars in costly water damage and mold remediation costs.
Cross-linked polyethylene tubing, better known as PEX, has revolutionized plumbing installations and repiping in the last three decades. This flexible tubing, safe for potable water, can make gentle bends around obstructions. Where required, elbows and other joints can be quickly installed with clamps, eliminating the need for soldering or gluing required with copper or PVC pipe. PEX is also less expensive than copper and won’t corrode over time. PEX tubing installed in plumbing systems in Europe over 30 years ago is still intact and resilient today.
Pipe ruptures that occur during a hard freeze are a major issue in cold climates. The insurance industry reports that over a quarter-million homeowners annually suffer property damage from broken water supply pipes in freezing temperatures. If outside temperatures fall below the 20-degree Fahrenheit threshold that generally causes ice to form in water lines, pipes may freeze. However, PEX offers a potential advantage over rigid plumbing such as copper or hard PVC. Due to its flexibility, PEX has a small margin of expansion under the damaging pressure caused by ice formation. If the weather gets cold enough, PEX pipes can and will freeze like any plumbing. However, PEX may be less likely to rupture as a result of freezing.
Because outdoor temperature conditions that cause ice formation in pipes vary from the moderate to the extreme, PEX manufacturers can provide no guarantee against rupture due to freezing.Therefore, here are some other steps you can take to prevent PEX pipes from freezing in the first place:
- Route PEX tubing through interior not exterior walls where possible.
- Keep rooms at 55 degrees or more when outdoor temps drop below 20 degrees.
- Insulate spans of PEX tubing exposed to freezing temperatures.
- During spells of acutely cold weather, allow indoor faucets to dribble to relieve damaging pressure in pipes if ice forms.
As temperatures drop, here are ten steps people can take to stay safe during the cold weather.
1. Layer up! Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing your body heat.
2. Don’t forget your furry friends. Bring pets indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
3. Remember the three feet rule. If you are using a space heater, place it on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least three feet away – things such as paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs.
4. Requires supervision – Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
5. Don’t catch fire! If you are using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
6. Protect your pipes. Run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent your pipes from freezing. Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children. Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.
7. Better safe than sorry. Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night. Your heating bill may be a little higher, but you could avoid a more costly repair job if your pipes freeze and burst.
8. The kitchen is for cooking. Never use a stove or oven to heat your home.
9. Use generators outside. Never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage.
10. Knowledge is power. Don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
Some activities such as snow shoveling, walking through heavy wet snow or in a snow drift, downhill and cross country skiing, snow-boarding, can strain the heart enough to cause a heart attack. Snow shoveling can be more strenuous than exercising full throttle on a treadmill. While this may not be a problem if an individual is healthy and fit, it can be dangerous if not.
Shoveling, even pushing a heavy snow blower, can cause sudden increase in blood pressure and heart rate, and the cold air can cause constriction of the blood vessel and decrease oxygen to the heart. All these work in concert to increase the work of the heart and trigger a potentially fatal heart attack.
Individuals who are at risk of a heart attack during cold outdoor activities include:
- Those with a prior heart attack
- Those with known heart disease
- Those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol
- Those who lead a sedentary lifestyle
- Individuals who are overweight and perform little to no exercise in their normal routine.
A recent case in Pennsylvania had a pregnant teen collapse after shoveling snow and was pronounced dead. The storms produced record snow and tides which resulted in extreme water damage and storm damage to homes, but everyone must be very careful when performing any strenuous task.