Thursday morning, I was on Fox 4 in DFW offering tips on how to avoid costly problems because of the cold. Here are my hints in a nutshell…
1. Indoors, open the doors on all cupboards on exterior walls where pipes are (or may be) located. This allows room heat into the cabinets and may be enough to help keep the plumbing from freezing.
2. It may be helpful to leave a *small* drip of cold water running from interior faucets where pipes to those faucets are located on outside walls. To be eco-friendly, put a bucket underneath and use that water for houseplants or pets.
3. If your water heater is located in the garage, adding insulation to pipes and the water heater will save heat and energy. Keep the garage door closed as much as possible to keep heat inside the garage.
4. Disconnect all hoses from ouside spigots. Cover all exposed spigots with insulative caps. These typically are made from styrofoam, or have styrofoam or other insulation inside. Make sure the cap seals tightly against the building. I prefer plastic caps with internal insulation. I even stuff additional fiberglass insulation inside the protective caps we’re using. The more you can “blanket” the spigot, the better. Cloth wraps are not as good and should only be used in a pinch.
5. BEFORE it freezes .. learn where the water shutoff is for your home and how to use it! If you *do* end up with damaged pipes, you’ll need to know how to shut off the water to minimize further damage. Make sure you know where your key is located, if you need one to open the box. Also, it helps to have a slotted key to turn off the water valve.
6. If you will be out of town during cold weather, shut off your water at the street, just for safety sake. Then turn on a few faucets inside the home to bleed the system. That’s much better then coming home to a flood!
7. DO NOT use a torch or other device in an attempt to thaw frozen pipes. If they’re split, you’ll likely need a pro to fix them. DO NOT use an electric hair dryer or other heating device to thaw frozen pipes. Risk of electric shock is a concern, especially if water sprays out.
SPACE HEATER SAFETY:
DO NOT use charcoal or any other “outdoor” heating system inside. They all emit carbon monoxide. It’s colorless, odorless, and is more readily absorbed into the blood than oxygen. CO suffocates victims. If you’re in a home with natural gas or other combustable forms of heat, make sure you have a *working* CO detector. If the alarm goes off, don’t ignore it! Get everyone out of the house and call an HVAC service company immediately. Test the CO detector and learn what it sounds like. A Dallas family nearly lost their lives recently because on moving into their new home, they mistook the sound of the CO alarm for another alarm .. and ignored it. Carbon monoxide is not an issue in all-electric homes UNLESS you introduce some form of combustable heat (anything burning) .. in which case you could be at risk. This includes propane heaters, camp stoves, charcoal BBQ, fireplaces, and so forth. Only purchase space heaters that shut off automatically when they tip over.
It is also very important to winterize your sprinkler system. The City of Dallas is apparently slapping fines on folks whose sprinklers burst because they create a hazard when they leak into roadways. Click here for some great info on this topic.
Cracked pipes outside (hose bibs) – most people wont know these are cracked until Spring when they begin watering with their hoses again.
The most important thing is to keep the equipment running so that the water is circulating through the equipment. Empty all skimmer baskets to minimize obstructions through the system. Empty all exposed pipes, even water hoses and fill lines. Do not run your heater. Use caution if you are running your pool sweep as it can spray a fine mist on walkways and make them very slippery!
Most fireplaces let more heat OUT of the house through the chimney than they add to the home, and should not be used for heat.
When you are not using the fireplace, close your damper and consider inserting a fireplace plug to help seal it.
Thanks to everyone who helped with this segment:
Elliott’s Hardware (provided props)
John Simonetta at Proforma Simonetta (provided my recycled embroidered jacket and apron)
Phil McEwan at Gold Medal Pools in DFW for the pool tips
Norm Alston, Architects and Dan Lepinski for helping with tech support
And Tom and Kathi Lind for allowing us to shoot this segment at their beautiful historic home, The Parks Estate, in Lakewood
And my mom and dad, of course.
Please visit my new radio show at www.MotherEarthNewsRadio.com