weather waited for the new year to give us the shivers, a vivid
reminder of this fact:
outdoor temperatures can hover around freezing in the daylight hours
and fall well below after dark. Combine that with the prolonged power
outages that often result from major storms at this time of year, and
the possibility of frozen pipes increases.
All houses are
different, but research has shown that when the temperature falls
below 20 degrees outdoors for two or three days, unprotected pipes are
more likely to freeze.
mean your pipes will freeze. Where the pipes are located and how well
they are insulated are two factors that determine whether your water
lines are vulnerable.
homes are better insulated than older ones, but you never know what
things look like behind the walls.
strategy is to let your faucets drip, which keeps water moving through
the system and relieves pressure, so any pipes that have frozen will
If you are
concerned that your pipes might burst, turn the water off at the main
valve as it enters the house, or at the meter.
Then choose the
lowest sink in the house and open the hot and cold water. (In our
house, for example, that would be the laundry sink in the basement.)
Next, open all
the hot- and cold-water faucets in the house, which will drain the
lines into the sink at the lowest point.
Flush all the
toilets in the house to empty their tanks.
If a pipe
freezes, it will need to be thawed slowly, with the nearest faucet
open so water can flow.
The American Red
Cross suggests applying heat to the frozen section of a pipe by
wrapping an electric heating pad around it, turning on a hair dryer or
a space heater near it, or wrapping it with towels soaked in hot
One of the best
ways to prevent such little surprises is to be aware of the vulnerable
areas in your house before the situation arises.
If the pipes in
your basement run up against cold walls, for instance, wrap them in
some sort of insulation.
If your house is
subject to power outages, invest in a portable generator to keep your
heaters and sump pump running in the meantime.
good to be prepared for any and all emergencies.