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Front Page » January 27, 2009 » Carbon County News » Extension engineering specialist outlines suggestions to ...
Published 2,443 days ago

Extension engineering specialist outlines suggestions to prevent pipes from freezing

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USU Extension writer

With the sub-zero winter temperatures experienced in the Castle Valley region, it is important for Carbon County residents to prepare water pipes for the cold weather.

When unprotected lines are subjected to freezing temperatures for several hours, the water freezes.

As water freezes, it expands and can cause pipes to crack or split.

Later, when the pressurized line thaws, the water leak can cause substantial damage, explained Richard Beard, Utah State University Extension agricultural engineering specialist .

The damage caused from a broken line may be similar to what would happen if people turned a faucet on high to clear a plugged kitchen sink drain and, as water started to run to the floor, left home for the day, pointed out the USU Extension engineering specialist

Frozen water pipe can crack, thaw and spray water inside homes while people are away or asleep.

If a leak is located inside a wall, below the floor or above the ceiling, it can be extremely difficult to reach and expensive to repair, noted Beard

To protect pipes, the USU Extension agricultural engineering specialist recommends that local residents consider:

•Exploring insulation options.

Waterlines located in areas where temperatures commonly drop below freezing should be protected.

In many cases, unprotected pipes, fittings and plumbing equipment can be enclosed in pre-formed insulation sleeves.

The sleeves resemble tubes and are available in varying diameters.

Plumbing insulation is also available in formed shapes that fit snugly around plumbing fixtures.

The insulation slips onto pipes and fixtures through slits that are cut the length of the sleeve or shape.

Another insulating option is strips of foil-faced fiberglass.

The strips are wrapped around pipes and fixtures and secured in place with tape or wire.

•Covering pipes properly.

For plumbing insulation to work properly, it must completely cover the pipes, fittings and fixtures that are exposed to cold temperatures.

Insulation should fit snugly around the plumbing fixtures, advised the USU Extension engineering specialist.

All insulation joints must fit tightly and be taped securely.

Before installing insulation, people should make sure there are no water leaks that will saturate and render it ineffective.

People should also remember that insulation will not protect pipes from prolonged freezing temperatures unless there is some source of heat or periodic water flow.

•Preparing waterlines before leaving homes unattended during the winter.

It is best to turn off the water, shut down the heater and drain the plumbing system.

If possible, local residents should leave the furnace on with the thermostat set near 50 degrees Fahrenheit to protect homes and belongings from harsh winter temperatures.

If a water pipe breaks, the damage will be minimal at 50 degrees.

If you are going away for only a few days, have someone stay in the house if possible. This will eliminate the shutdown and startup procedures.

•When the location of a pipe makes the use of insulation unpractical or ineffective, electrical heat cables may be installed.

Manufacturers provide detailed instructions for use and the option should not be the first choice in freeze prevention, noted the USU Extension agricultural engineering specialist . If the electricity is off for several hours, unheated pipes can freeze.

• Exercising cautious when thawing frozen waterlines.

If pipes freeze, a plumber may be the best contact.

People opting to tackle the task personally should shut off the main supply line first, then open the faucet in the frozen pipe. Begin thawing at the faucet. Gradually raise the temperature of the pipe so the ice will melt. When frozen plumbing is heated gradually, the trapped water will not boil and rubber or plastic faucet parts will not melt. Waterlines may be thawed using a space heater, heat lamp, heat tape, hair dryer or towels soaked in hot water wrapped around the pipes. Be cautious when using electrical appliances in wet locations. To avoid burns, do not use boiling water to thaw pipes. Also, do not use an open flame to thaw frozen waterlines, due to the fire hazard. If there is a chance a frozen water pipe will leak when it thaws, open other faucets in the house to drain water from the plumbing system. If a hot waterline or a main waterline serving the home freezes, it is often necessary to turn the water heater off. Keep buckets or other containers nearby to collect water.

• Avoid counting on the running water technique.

During cold temperatures, people sometimes turn a faucet on and leave the water running to prevent the line from freezing. Although the technique will work, it wastes water and should only be done when more permanent methods cannot be used, explained Beard. All lines will freeze and people seldom leave the hot water running.

In conclusion, the USU Extension agricultural engineering specialist indicated that teaching adults and older children in the household where the main shutoff is located and how to turn off the water will alleviate potential damages.

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January 27, 2009
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