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Avoiding Your Home Being the Source of a Local Glacier

It was this time of year more than 20 years ago. I saw an amazing site out of the corner of my eye. It was a house for sale in a beautiful rural area. It was a FRIGID COLD day. It was wrap your scarf tight and tuck it in under your coat collar and wear a hat even though it would give you ?hat air? at an important meeting type of COLD.

There was not any snow on the ground BUT, as I was driving, there was a driveway, a steep driveway on the high side of the road. The driveway had a thick, wide almost glacier like ribbon of ice running down the hill with its frozen shoulders of thick ice edging down and across the main road.

The furnace had failed, and the water pipes had burst. If you are to believe the over $1,000.00 water bill these homeowners later received, tens of thousands of gallons of water had passed through the house and out from under the garage doors.

I pulled over and called the Realtor, whose phone number was displayed on the sign now at the edge of this newly formed Pennsylvania version of a glacier.

There is always a lesson in tragedy. It is less painful when someone else has the tragedy and we are just doing the learning. In the spirit of you learning without suffering the loss, here are the lessons in that tragedy.

No matter what, in cold weather areas, disconnect exterior water hoses before cold weather arrives. Exterior spigots easily freeze when they hold water.

When you are going to be away from the home for an extended time in severe cold weather:

Turn off the water at the main shutoff for municipal water

Turn off the power to the pump for homes with water well systems

If possible, drain the pipes by opening all of the spigots in the home after the main valve is off.

Once drained, you can turn those spigots back off, or do so when you return home.

Install a temperature monitor in the home that will call your cell phone if the temperature goes below 45 degrees. There are a number of these systems available at a reasonable cost.

Dump a little RV type (non-toxic) antifreeze in each trap in your plumbing fixtures.

When it is just plain bitter cold, even when you are home:

You need to protect pipes that are exposed on outside walls, exposed in ceilings and attics, near crawlspaces and garages.

If possible, shut off the water valves off at a minimum and drain the water from pipes in those areas.

Wrap pipes in those areas with heat tape and cover with pipe insulation. Use heat tape that warms based upon a thermostat reading.

An alternative strategy is to let water drip through the pipes in a cold area so that the water can’t be standing long enough to freeze.

Open doors to sinks and closed up closest that contain water pipes in order to allow additional warm air to those areas.

Make sure that when you add insulation, the insulation is not located so as to reduce the flow of heat to an area where there are hidden pipes.

If you are living in an area with warm weather, ignore the blog and invite a northern friend to come visit a while after they winterize their home.