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Utilities

Posted on: January 23, 2019

Avoid freezing pipes!

Heat Tape

During the winter months, it is important to take action to prevent your outside pipes from freezing. Water expands as it freezes, so a frozen pipe will typically break, then start a major leak when the ice melts. Most importantly, for both summer and winter, your outside water supply and garden spigot pipes should be protected with pipe-specific foam insulation. In addition, a faucet sock or foam cover should be put over the outside spigot for your garden hoses or outdoor sinks.

The temperature difference between inside your house and right next to it can be as little as 20 degrees, but that will vary with distance from heated areas, how hot or cold it is outside, and how far your pipes extend underneath a raised home. It's estimated that for every degree you turn down your heat, you will see a 2% savings in your monthly energy bill. But of course, if you keep your heat to a minimum, there will be less heat to keep your pipes from freezing.

If the outside temperature never reaches freezing, you will be safe. We don't suffer freezing temperatures as often as our neighbors inland do, but on those nights when we are in danger of freezing, some added protection may be needed. 

Many people use the faucet drip method. As long as water is running through your pipes, they won't freeze. Water coming up out of the ground and into your home starts at a warm 55 degrees, so simply dripping your faucet is one way to keep from freezing your pipes. Web sites recommend a drip rate of about 1 gallon per hour; this translate to about 4 drips per second. Quite a few homeowners think you need to run faucets inside your home; this is a complete waste of water, as long as there is heat in your home. The only pipes that need to be dripped are those exposed directly to freezing temperatures, and then a steady drip is better than a trickle, because too much water running through your pipes may cost you extra when your monthly bill arrives. This year, we have had homeowners that have turned faucets full on, bumping their monthly usage from under 3000 gals, which is included at no additional cost with your service, up to 30,000 gals! That is a hefty water bill, and since nothing is broken, there is no relief given for that kind of unwarranted and unneeded water use!

There are several different vendors of water pipe heating cable or heating tape that are available both locally and online. Lowe's, Home Depot, and Ace Hardware all carry the Frost King brand, as does Amazon. However, freezing temperatures are so rare, you may have trouble finding any at the local hardware stores. It is best to purchase any heating devices before the season and to install them before the weather turns cold. Some units have thermostats built-in, so you can set the temperature at which the unit will turn on. Tapes and cable heaters are intended to be used under foam (not paper!) insulation, as they will not have to work as hard to keep your pipes warm under the foam insulation.

Don't forget to unplug your heater or turn off the tap completely when freezing is no longer a danger!

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