Don’t let another winter storm take you by surprise

Don’t let another winter storm take you by surprise

As we saw just before Christmas, a strong Canadian cold front can quickly sweep into Texas, plunging temperatures below freezing. Thankfully, the last cold snap was a dry event. But the next one could bring rain, sleet or snow with the lower temps, potentially wreaking havoc on water pipes and leading to home catastrophes.

Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do that don’t take much time that could save you money in repair bills while keeping water where it is supposed to be. 

The goal is to keep pipes from freezing. The American Red Cross notes that water expands when it freezes: “This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the strength of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break.”

Burst pipes can cost a homeowner $5,000 or more to repair, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety. Because southern climates are warmer, the IIBHS notes, pipes are often located in unprotected areas outside of insulation, and homeowners are less likely to think about the danger when deep freezes may only occur once or twice in a winter season.

“Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside walls are all vulnerable to freezing, especially if there are cracks or openings that allow cold, outside air to flow across the pipes,” according to the IIBHS. “The size of pipes and their composition (copper or PVC) have some bearing on how fast ice forms, but they are relatively minor factors in pipe bursting compared with the absence of heat, pipe insulation and exposure to a flow of subfreezing air.”

Pipes most at risk are spigots located outdoors, such as swimming pool supply lines and water sprinkler systems. Other pipes susceptible to freezing are located in places such as garages or kitchen cabinets and those against walls that are not well insulated.

The Red Cross recommends the following steps to protect your property:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines according to manufacturer’s instructions, or have a professional do the job for you.
  • Remove, drain and store outdoor hoses. Close inside valves linked to outdoor spigots, but keep the outside valve open to allow water to drain. Also, you can purchase Styrofoam coverings to place over the spigots as added protection from the cold.
  • Consider adding insulation to attics and crawl spaces.
  • Insulate pipes located in unheated areas of your home.
  • Keep garage doors closed as much as possible during cold weather if there are water lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors so that warmer air can circulate in those areas.
  • If the weather outside is very cold, let water drip from faucets. This helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep your thermostat set at a steady temperature. If you plan to leave your home for an extended time, do not set the temperature below 55 degrees.

When the weather has been warm, it’s easy to be caught off guard by a sudden cold snap. Taking precautions in advance can keep you from having to pay an expensive repair bill and also helps to conserve water that could otherwise damage your home.

For more information on protecting your home from winter cold snaps, go here