Are You Ready for the Polar Vortex??

Here it comes…..

This President’frozen pipess Day weekend also includes Valentine’s Day and for good measure let’s throw in a Polar Vortex here in the Hudson Valley. This can cause quite a few headaches — especially with our properties.

When the temperature drops during the cold season, your plumbing can take a hit. It doesn’t take much to freeze an exposed pipe. When this happens, you’ll notice slower water flow, no water running or worse, sewage back up.

Here are Some Signs of a Frozen Pipe

Low Flow –If you see slower water pressure than normal, it’s time to check your pipes. Blockage can cause a backup and make the situation worse.

Frost on the Pipe – For visible pipes, like those under your counter, you may be able to see that frost has accumulated around the exterior.

No Water – This is obvious enough, but many people overlook the fact that no water can spell serious trouble for your plumbing.

So What Do You Do? – Make sure, however, in the case of a ruptured pipe or a widespread freeze across multiple pipes, it is always recommended to call a licensed plumber.

If the problem is isolated and you have located the freeze, here are a few ways to turn that ice back to water and get your pipe back in working order.

Step 1: Open the tap that correlates with the line that is frozen (cold water line or hot water line). The flow helps start to melt the iced area as well as relieve the pressure to help melt more ice.

Step 2: Apply heat to the frozen section of the pipe. Here are your options:

  • Wrap towels that are soaked in hot water around the pipe
  • Use a hand hair dryer to heat up the frozen area – if the pipe is up against a wall you can place a metal cookie sheet behind it to heat the pipe even faster
  • Use electrical heating tape around the pipe – make sure it is plugged into a grounded electrical socket to prevent risk of shock

So, what do I do to avoid this from happening in the first place? Here are a few steps you can take.

  1. During the cold nights, it’s recommended to let cold water trickle from the faucet (Use the kitchen sink). Moving water does not freeze, so this little trick helps prevent frozen pipes.
  2. Disconnect hoses and drain all outdoor pipes on the last warm day of fall. Make sure all exterior taps are turned off so that no water, or pressure is running to unused pipes.
  3. Keep warm air circulating well during the colder months. Use a fan in rooms that aren’t used often to keep the air flowing. The circulation will help maintain a steady temperature throughout the house and prevent pipes from freezing.
  4. Weather stripping can be your savior. Make sure all doors, windows, and cracks are well sealed. Take special care of garage doors and sliding doors.
  5.  Your pump. Let’s not forget about this. Check to make sure snow or ice is not restricting water drainage as this line typically drains from the basement to the outside area. A blockage will cause flooding, quickly.

Hopefully, you have put these practices in place. One important reminder is to do it right the first time. If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur….

Stay Warm!!!

PS: If you live in South Florida, nevermind.

Kevin Michaels is owner of Hudson Valley Property Inspections, llc, and a licensed NYS Home Inspector based in the Ulster County town of Saugerties, NY.

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