Can you feel it in the air? Snow is on the way, Hampton Roads! As residents hunker down for the first winter weather event of the season, there are ways to prepare for Jack Frost’s bite without harming the environment – or your pipes. Consider these winter storm prep tips from askHRgreen.org:
Deice Right! There’s some bad advice floating around that fertilizer is a fantastic deicer. Don’t be fooled! Fertilizer becomes a dangerous pollutant when it enters storm drains and waterways as polluted runoff. Opt for magnesium chloride or calcium magnesium acetate (the safest choices) or calcium chloride. Avoid rock salt which is common but hazardous to your car, lawn and pets. And don’t wait until the storm blows through to think about deicing. Deicers are most effective when applied before snow or ice accumulates.
Reduce drafts. Keep doors and windows near your water pipes closed during cold weather and seal any air leaks or cracks in your crawl space or basement.
Insulate. Pipes in unheated areas of your home (garages and crawl spaces) should be insulated. Also, replace any wet insulation, which is worse than no insulation at all.
Disconnect and drain garden hoses and rain barrels. Packing away your garden hose will prevent damage from freezing temperatures and may decrease your chances of bursting a water pipe.
Keep fats, oils and grease out of the drain. Keeping greasy food waste out of your drains will help to prevent clogs and sewer backups. Grease cools much faster in colder temps and improper disposal could quickly lead to a clogged sewer line and a nasty mess in your home. Can the grease and skip the disposal as you place food waste in the trash (or compost pile) where it belongs.
Find your shut-off valve. In the event of a burst pipe, you don’t want to be fumbling around looking for the main water shut-off valve. Locate it ahead of time and be prepared to act in an emergency.
Drip the faucet, but not too much. When temperatures are predicted to be in the teens or below you may wish to leave a trickle of water running from a single faucet at the highest level in your home. This trickle of water should be about the size of the lead in a pencil. Leaving a faucet running wide open will not provide additional insurance against a frozen water pipe, but it will waste a lot of water.
If a pipe freezes, be cautious. Thawing a frozen pipe can be dangerous because the pipes may become damaged or cracked, releasing water under great pressure. This is especially risky if you are using heat lamps, hair dryers or other electrical means of thawing the pipe. Never use an open flame on a frozen pipe. Be sure to thaw the pipe from the direction of the faucet so that the water has a safe way to escape as it melts.
If you lose all water service, call your provider. When all the faucets in your home stop working, it’s possible that your water meter has frozen. Your water utility service provider will need to send a technician to your home to check the meter and, if needed, correct the issue. However, the water utility does not assist with frozen pipes between the meter and your faucet so prevention is key to reducing the headache (and expense) of a frozen or burst water pipe.