Frozen Pipes – Preventing and Thawing

As colder weather sweeps the country, there are many threats to your home’s plumbing. One of these is frozen pipes. When water inside your pipes freezes, it expands. This expansion can wreak havoc on the pipes that run throughout your house, causing ruptures and cracks. There are several steps you can take to prevent freezing from happening, as well as thawing them back out if it does.

Preventing

The best method to ensure healthy plumbing is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Disconnect outdoor water hose

A garden hose left out in the cold can cause a chain reaction of freezing to take place throughout your home. Water could freeze in the hose and then move into the water lines.

Insulating all water pipes

Use foam/rubber pipe insulator or some other safe method to keep pipes dry and help prevent freezing. This needs to be done correctly in order to prevent mold growth and decay by generating and retaining moisture inside.

Keep pipes heated

This can be done in a variety of ways. Heat tape and heated reflector lamps are two examples of ways to keep pipes from freezing.

Keep home warm

Turning up the thermostat will help in limiting the amount of cold air circulating throughout the home and increase the temperature of everything inside. It is also important to keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night to help avoid the forming of condensation.

Turn off sprinkler system

Not only does the main water supply to the irrigation system need to be shut off, but it also needs to be protected. Make sure that it is wrapped in insulation or some other form of shelter to protect it from freezing temperatures. This can even be done with mulch or pine straw.

Drip faucets

Keep water running through the pipes at a slow rate by dripping your faucets. This helps to avoid the settling of water. Another tip is to attach a string to the faucet that hangs down to avoid annoying dripping sounds.

Thawing

If pipes do freeze, there are best practices when it comes to thawing them back out.

Apply heat to pipe and surrounding air directly

This can be done with a hair dryer, heat gun, electric heating pad, space heater, bare incandescent bulbs, heat lamps and other methods. This heating needs to be applied gradually and evenly and monitored closely to avoid pipe and water damage.

Wrap with heat tape/cable

This can be purchased from most hardware stores. Wrap this tape/cable around the pipe in a single layer and then plug it in. Do not overlap electric heat tape/cable. It is recommended to wrap around pipe in a spiral motion.

Open faucets slightly

This is the same idea as prevention. Flowing water will help reduce stagnant water and result in less freezing. Also, the running water will help thaw out the ice if it does develop.

Pour salt down frozen drain

Salt lowers the melting point of ice. Start with pouring a tablespoon of salt down the drain and then give it a few moments to start working.

If you’re leaving your house for an extended period of time this winter, there are certain steps that should be taken to avoid coming home to frozen pipes and subsequent damage. Shut off the main water supply and open all faucets. This will help empty the water out of the pipes and reduce the sitting water left. Also, flushing all of the toilets helps accomplish this. Before you leave, set your thermostat no lower than 55º F. Doing so will aid in limiting the amount of cold air circulating throughout your home.

There are many ways to prevent and thaw out frozen pipes. Prevention is always the better route to avoid any serious and long-term damage. If a freeze does happen, locating the frozen pipe and then taking the necessary steps can be very tedious and difficult. It is recommended to get the help of a professional before acting uninformed. Contact Eastern Plumbing for all of your frozen pipe needs.

Keep Your Water Heating Bill Low This Winter

Winter has arrived, which means harsh temperatures and pricey utility bills. Water heating is the second largest energy expense, accounting for about 18% of your household’s utility bills. The good news is that you can make small, easy tweaks to lower those costs and conserve energy at the same time. Read on for ideas on how to cut down on hot water use this winter.

Reduce your time in the shower.

With the temperature dropping outside, it’s tempting to take long, hot showers. But did you know that water comes through your home’s plumbing at an average of two gallons per minute? Think of all the water you’re paying to heat up! Keep your showers short and bundle up with a big towel and fluffy robe afterward.

Lower the temperature.

Water heaters sometimes come from the manufacturer with the temperature set at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The Federal Department of Energy recommends keeping the thermostat on your water heater set to 120 degrees. For every 10-degree reduction in temperature, you can save 3-5% on your water heating costs.

Insulate your tank.

Help your water heater preserve its warmth by insulating the storage tank. This will prevent the water from cooling down and forcing the unit to work overtime. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when installing insulation so you don’t accidentally cover up the thermostat or burner compartment.

Install a timer.

If you have an electric heater, install a timer that turns off at night or times when you don’t use it. You can also use the timer to turn off the water heater during your utility’s peak demand times. A timer is relatively inexpensive and it saves money on your water heating bill over time. For gas heaters, you can keep the temperature turned down most of the time and manually turn the temperature up about a half hour before you need it.

Flush your water heater annually.

There are several benefits to flushing the sediment from your hot water heater at least once a year. By flushing your water heater, you’ll have more room in your tank to store hot water. You’ll also keep bacteria from growing in your tank. Most importantly, you’ll save money on your utility bill because your tank will operate more efficiently.

Try out these tips for saving energy and see how much you can save. If your water heater is old, it might be a good idea to look into getting a new one. Today, new water heaters are more energy efficient. If you need service for your water heater or plumbing, give Eastern Plumbing a call.

Don’t Get Caught in the Cold with a Plumbing Emergency

The temperatures are dropping. This is the time of the year where your home is most prone to plumbing problems. Serious plumbing problem like cracked and frozen pipes should be left to plumbing professionals. However, there are many things homeowners can do on their own to prevent plumbing mishaps during the cold weather.

Be Wise. Winterize.

If you haven’t already done so, make sure your outside hoses are disconnected from faucets. To ensure your outside pipes don’t freeze and expand, causing serious leaks and flooding, turn off and drain the pipes.

Shut-off valves.

Close your valves and drain the water off, which makes the shutting down of external pipes easier. Once the exterior faucets are disconnected, they can be protected from the cold weather with lagging.

Insulate Pipes.

Use heat tape or insulating sleeves, available at most hardware stores, to protect your pipes from extreme temperatures.

Seal Windows and Doors.

Increase energy efficiency by sealing doors and windows from drafts. You can use materials that you can find in any home center. This will add a few degrees of warmth to your pipes and fixtures, keeping warm air inside your home.

Check Hot Water Heater.

Your water heater has an extra burden placed on it during cold months. Flush your heater out to get rid of any build-up sediments to prevent corrosion. Check the water pressure release valve, which should snap back into place when lifted after allowing a spurt of water to the drain. If you notice a slack, get a professional to replace the release valve.

For optimum performance during the cold season, set your water heater’s thermometer to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure to clean dead leaves and other debris from around the downspouts to allow for better drainage.

Bring Your Faucets to a Slow Trickle.

Prevent ice build-up in your pipes during the cold months by leaving your faucets on at a very slow trickle, especially at night when temperatures can take a sudden plunge. This will ensure that water doesn’t accumulate in one place and freeze.

Close Main Water Valve.

If you plan on going on a winter vacation for an extended length of time, it’s a good idea to close the main water valve. Open the faucets at the top and base of the house to drain the system, keeping the heat on as you do.

Use Your Pipe Wrench.

A pipe wrench is an important tool to use in plumbing maintenance. The wrench enables you to get a good grip on pipes and fittings. Another good tool is a pair of pliers, which will help you adjust nuts and bolts. For bigger home plumbing jobs it’s best to get the help from a professional.

Contact Eastern Plumbing

Setting the standard in quality service for over 15 years, we help thousands of homeowners in eastern North Carolina with plumbing needs. The best defense to making sure your plumbing systems are running properly is to schedule annual maintenance inspections and keep on top of your systems before it’s too late. Our team of professionals consists of some of the most experienced and qualified plumbers working today. We’re available 24/7 for any plumbing emergency.

Seasonal Plumbing Tips for Spring

Spring is here, which means it’s time for “spring cleaning” for your home’s pipe and drainage systems. Eastern Plumbing offers you these quick and simple tips to protect your home against seasonal plumbing problems.

Kitchen/Bathrooms

  • Check faucets for drips or leaks. Make repairs to save water.
  • Check toilets for hidden leaks. Add six drops of food coloring to the toilet tank. If the toilet is leaking, color will appear in the bowl within 30 minutes.
  • Inspect tank and bowl for cracks or leaks.
  • Make sure toilets flush properly. If the handle must be held down for a thorough flush or jiggled to stop the water from running you may need to replace worn tank parts. They’re inexpensive and you’ll notice a lower water bill.

Appliances

  • Flush your water heater tank to clear out corrosion causing sediment, which reduces heating efficiency and shortens the life of the heater. Check your water heater manufacturer’s website for specific instructions concerning your make and model.
  • Consider replacing a water heater more than 15 years old. (The first four numbers of the serial number represent the month and year it was made.) Newer water heaters are more energy efficient.
  • Make sure flammables are not stored near the water heater or furnace.
  • Check dishwasher, washing machine and ice maker supply hoses for bulges or leaks. Replace hoses showing signs of weakness or older than ten years. Use stainless steel hoses where possible; they are more reliable and less prone bursting.

General

  • Pour a gallon of water into infrequently used drains (including floor drains) to fill the trap and prevent odors from entering the house. Slow floor drains should be snaked to ensure they will carry away water quickly in the event of a flood.
  • Check exposed pipes under sinks and in the basement for signs of leaks.
  • If your home has a sump pump, make sure it operates properly by pouring a few buckets of water into the sump pit. The pump should quickly turn on, discharge the water then shut off without any problems.
  • Inspect for slow leaks in your home by taking a reading on your water meter.
  • Install flood alarms. Like a smoke alarm, a flood alarm is a battery-operated device that sounds an alarm when it comes in contact with water. It alerts you to potential flooding or leaks.

Outside

  • Make sure yard drains, gutters and downspouts are cleaned out, open, and free of debris. If you let the debris build up, gutters and drains can clog, causing water damage, leakage and mold growth – not something you want to deal with!
  • Check for bird nests in plumbing vent pipes.
  • Check faucets and hose bibs to make sure water flows freely. If an outdoor faucet drips or if there is leakage inside your home the first time the hose is turned on, you may have had a frozen pipe that cracked and needs to be replaced.

Completing this inspection will prepare your home for the heavy rains of spring and will help you discover sooner and not later any damages caused by a long, cold winter. Contact Eastern Plumbing today to ensure you are ready!