You live in New England and YES, you expect cold weather, a few snow storms, and maybe a single ice storm each winter but this year’s Polar Vortex has caused New Englanders to fret over the weather much more than usual. The continuous days of arctic temperatures poses many challenges and one of the most prevalent that Loiselle Insurance is seeing lately is frozen pipes. Rather than googling “Thawing Frozen Pipes” when disaster strikes or calling 1-800-Need-Plumber-Now its best to take these steps with the goal of frozen pipe prevention.
Keep your Heat On – Ok, this may seem obvious but we still have to say it. In efforts to save money, do not turn your heat off when you leave the house for the day or turn it way down at night with the idea of bundling up with six blankets while you sleep. During cold weather, keep your heat on at all times. Its best to leave your thermostat at no less than 55 degrees throughout the day.
Note: If you happen to own commercial rental property or an apartment house, require your tenants maintain the heat at a minimum of 55 degrees. You can make this part of your lease agreement. If you are in between tenants or own a vacant building, make sure you keep the heat on. Most insurance policies will not cover damage caused by frozen pipes if the vacant property is not being heated.
Turn Off Outside Faucets – Outside water faucets are often the first to freeze. Before cold weather hits, turn off the outside faucet via an inside shut off in the basement. Next, open the outside spigot which allows any water to drain. In addition to outside faucets freezing, you may find frozen pipes in garage spaces frozen pipes in basement areas, so keep those pipes shut off and drained whenever possible.
Insulate Your Pipes – Identify your home pipes that are in cold spaces such as garages, basements, outside walls, rooms or cabinets with poor airflow, etc. Insulate these pipes with foam pipe wraps. This is an easy DIY project.
Encourage Air Flow to Pipes – If you have pipes inside of closets or inside of cabinets (think under the sink), make sure heat is getting to these areas by keeping the closet or cabinet doors open. If you have ceiling fans, reverse the motor in the winter so the fan spins clockwise and run at a low speed. This creates a slow updraft to circulate heat trapped near the ceiling.
Keep The Faucet At A Trickle – If all else fails or if you were meaning to get around to all the items above and before you knew it the arctic air arrived and now you’re panicking, leave your faucet at a trickle. Standing water freezes but trickling water is less likely to freeze. A slow steady faucet drip will help keep water moving and prevent frozen pipes.
Frozen pipe prevention is critical but frozen pipe solutions are equally important. Never thaw a pipe with a blow torch. Extreme temperature changes cause bigger pipe problems. Frozen pipe symptoms include no water flow when turning on your faucet or very slow water flow when a faucet is fully opened. If you suspect you have a frozen pipe thaw it slowly with a hair dryer or a small portable heater. Thawing the pipe gradually before you have a burst pipe will prevent all damage. If you have a burst pipe already, first turn off the main water line in your home to minimize damage when thawing occurs and then call a plumber.
Most home insurance policies and commercial property insurance will cover damage caused by burst pipes or frozen pipes as long as the property is not vacant and the building is being heated adequately. Ask your agent if your policy includes frozen pipe insurance coverage. We would be more than happy to answer your questions or help submit a claim to your insurance company if you have frozen pipe damage your home.
Author: Brenda Loiselle-DuClos, Vice President of Loiselle Insurance Agency