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'Tis the season to prevent frozen pipes

December 30, 2011

The quick-fix method of "dripping" a faucet to prevent pipes from freezing is not the most efficient measure to ward off delayed water and burst pipes. Photo by Gian DeLoia.

Now that snow has finally begun to fall and the temperature has dropped, homeowners run the risk of frozen pipes and water damage.
According to Ed McNell of St. Marys Plumbing Heating & Cooling, something as cheap and simple as adding insulation to piping can save a homeowner thousands of dollars down the road.
"One of biggest problems inside of homes are small drafts," McNell said. "If a pipe is running by an outside window or close to an outside wall where a draft can come in, there is a high tendency to get a freeze right at that spot."
Home improvement and hardware stores sell a variety of foam and fiberglass insulations that are made specifically to wrap around piping to prevent freezing.
McNell says for extreme cold weather conditions, heat tape can be used.
"An electrical current runs through the heat tape and that electrical current generates just enough heat to keep the pipes from freezing," McNell said. "It is something you have to plug in and if there is not a power source available, then it is not an option."
Spray foam insulation is a good alternative to regular insulation.
"It is great for plugging everywhere that you have cold coming in," McNell said.
Although the famous standby method of setting a faucet to drip can prevent a pipe from freezing, it is not the most efficient way to deal with the problem.
"You can leave the warm faucet on and let it drip just to keep the water moving," McNell said. "The problem with that is you are just wasting water and why not get to the cause of what the real problem is, rather than the quick fix of just leaving the water drip?"
Although temperatures have not been low enough yet, McNell expects to begin getting calls later in the winter.

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