Plumbing Tips

How to Fix Freezing Water Pipes

Freezing pipes are bad – but burst pipes are considerably worse. Here’s how to thaw freezing pipes and mitigate damage resulting from frozen plumbing. The best way to deal with freezing pipes is to prevent them in the first place. But if the unthinkable does happen, you’ll have to act fast to minimize the damage and cost of repairs.

Why freezing pipes burst
Not all freezing pipes burst, explains Paul Abrams, spokesman for Roto-Rooter. But when one does, it’s because water expands when it freezes, adding considerable pressure on unyielding plumbing pipes. That pressure can cause a tiny leak at a joint or crack on a length of pipe, unleashing the full flow of water inside your home.

How to identify freezing pipes
A water line coated in frost (or bulging like a well-fed python) is a good sign that it’s frozen, but not all plumbing pipes are visible. “If your faucets won’t flow and your toilets won’t refill following a flush, that’s a good sign your pipes are frozen,” says Abrams.

How to thaw frozen pipe
Before doing anything, shut off the water supply to that section of plumbing (or the entire house if that’s the only option) because the real trouble begins after the thaw. That’s because the frozen water may be acting as a plug, preventing water from spilling out of the cracks in your pipes. When that plug is thawed, water gushes out. It’s a good idea to be ready with a mop, bucket, and towels in case there’s a plumbing leak.

“It’s not the frozen pipes that really get plumbers’ phones ringing,” adds Abrams. “It’s the thawing pipes that leak and spew water after a hard freeze.”

Use a space heater, heat lamp, or hair dryer to thaw the frozen length of pipe. Wrapping freezing pipes with thermostatically controlled heat tape (from $50 to $200, depending on length) is also an effective way to quickly thaw a trouble spot.
Don’t thaw pipes using a propane torch, which presents a fire risk.

What to do if a pipe bursts
If you walk in to discover Old Faithful in your basement, the first thing you should do is shut off the main water supply to minimize flooding. Next, call your plumber.

Immediately dry out by removing as much water as possible using mops, sponges, towels, and a wet/dry vacuum. To minimize mold, mildew, and other moisture-related problems, run a dehumidifier in the space until it’s very dry.

For big messes, call your insurance agent. The good news is that most home owners insurance covers burst pipes and the resulting water damage.

A few words about that main water shut-off valve
“Everybody should know where it is,” says Abrams. “The sooner you can shut off the water, the less it will cost you down the road.” Not only should home owners know where the valve is located, they should have it inspected the next time a plumber is on site. If your home has an older gate-style valve, it might be worth the money ($200 to $400) to have it replaced with a more reliable ball valve. Gate valves are prone to sticking when you need them the most, so it’s a good idea to exercise them once a year by rotating them back and forth.
Content provided by: www.houselogic.com

12 Tips for Keeping the House Cool

1. Reduce the cooling load by employing cost-effective conservation measures. Provide effective shade for east and west windows. When possible, delay heat-generating activities such as dishwashing until evening on hot days.

2. Over most of the cooling season, keep the house closed tight during the day. Don’t let in unwanted heat and humidity. Ventilate at night either naturally or with fans.

3. You can help get rid of unwanted heat through ventilation if the temperature of the incoming air is 77 F or lower. (This strategy works most effectively at night and on cooler days.) Window fans for ventilation are a good option if used properly. They should be located on the downwind side of the house facing out. A window should be open in each room. Interior doors must remain open to allow air flow.

4. Use ceiling fans to increase comfort levels at higher thermostat settings. The standard human comfort range for light clothing in the summer is between 72 F and 78 F. To extend the comfort range to 82 F, you need a breeze of about 2.5 ft/sec or 1.7 mph. A sow-turning ceiling-mounted paddle fan can easily provide this air flow.

5. In hot climates, plant shade trees around the house. Don’t plant trees on the South if you want to benefit from passive solar heating in the winter.

6. If you have an older central air conditioner, consider replacing the outdoor compressor with a modern, high-efficiency unit. Make sure that it is properly matched to the indoor unit.

7. If buying a new air conditioner, be sure that it is properly sized. Get assistance from an energy auditor or air conditioning contractor.

8. Buy a high-efficiency air conditioner: for room air conditioners, the energy efficiency ratio (EER) rating should be above 10; for central air conditioners, look for a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) rating above 12.

9. In hot, humid climates, make sure that the air conditioner you buy will adequately get rid of high humidity. Models with variable or multi-speed blowers are generally best. Try to keep moisture sources out of the house.

10. Try not to use a dehumidifier at the same time your air conditioner is operating. The dehumidifier will increase the cooling load and force the air conditioner to work harder.

11. Seal all air conditioner ducts, and insulate ducts that run through unheated basements, crawl spaces, and attics.

12. Keep the thermostat set at 78 degrees F or higher if using ceiling fans. Don’t air-condition unused rooms.

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