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How to Protect Your Pipes from Freezing

Frozen water expands, and as anyone who has suffered frozen pipes knows, ice is a powerful force that can break open most containers, including metal ones. Keeping your pipes from freezing in the winter is an essential task for New England homeowners, but fortunately there are some basic approaches to minimize the risk.

 

Before the storm

Foam insulation sheaths can be wrapped around water pipes to protect them from the cold air. The most vulnerable pipes are ones located inside exterior walls, run through an unheated portion of the house like a garage, and those that connect to an outdoor opening like a spigot.

Another option is to wrap heat tape around the vulnerable pipes. Heat tape is a flat ribbon that is coiled around the pipe like a corkscrew and uses electricity to keep the pipe warm, like an electric blanket.

Special heat lamps can also be aimed at pipes in cold sections of the house. Typically, these lamps will have a light that shines on the pipe. This makes it easy to check up on. If the light isn’t on, the lamp isn’t working.

Of course, adding heat tape or a heat lamp to your home means there will be an ongoing cost in the form of higher electric bills. Prices depend on the local power costs, but expect to pay between $40 to $60 each month for every 100 feet of heat tape.

If you’re going to leave your home for an extended time during the winter, such as a week-long vacation, then keep your heat on and set it to no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also consider shutting off the main water supply and draining all the water out by running the faucets dry and flushing the toilets.

Plumbing pipes aren’t the only ones that can freeze. The pipes in a hot tub, a hot water heating system or any other type of pipe can freeze if the unit or its pipes are exposed in a cold space.

Many hot water heating systems allow you to use antifreeze to protect the system from freezing. Check your heating system’s manual and specifications to find out how,. If you do decide to add antifreeze, it needs to be checked each year to make sure it’s still working.

Remember that the best way to solve a plumbing emergency is to prevent it from ever happening.

 

During the big freeze

When a cold night comes, you want to keep the air around your pipes as warm as possible. For the pipes in your garage, keep the garage doors closed to keep out the chilled air. If the pipes in your kitchen are at risk, however, you need to use the opposite approach. Keep your kitchen cabinets open to allow heated air to flow over your plumbing.

You can consider letting your water run at a slow stream just above a drip if the inside of the house is extremely cold, such as if you lose electricity but your plumbing still runs. This movement will stop water from staying in prolonged contact with the pipes. While there will be a cost in the form of a higher water bill, it’s much lower than the cost of burst pipes.

 

Dealing with the aftermath

If things warm up and you notice any new plumbing problems, such as a decrease in water pressure, have a look at all of your pipes. Look for icy build ups around a section of pipe or visible cracks.

If you do discover the worst and you’re in our coverage area, call us as soon as you can so we can contain and fix the problem. We can be reached at (978) 433-5373.

If you want to try to thaw out a frozen section of pipe yourself, don’t use open flames like blowtorches or lighters. Instead, try a hair dryer or wrap an electric warming blanket around the frozen section.

What is the Mass Save Heat Loan?

Participating lenders offer 0% loans up to $25,000 (depending on the utility and the lender) with terms up to 7 years! To qualify for this type of loan, you must have a Mass Save Home Energy Assessment and install qualified energy efficiency measures recommended by a Mass Save representative.

You can get a loan from participating banks for zero interest to install energy efficient systems! No interest at all! And … it isn’t as complicated as it might sound!

Simply call Mass Save at 866-527-7983 and request a Home Energy Assessment. There is no cost or obligation. A Mass Save representative will go to your home and check windows; doors; attic, wall and basement insulation; and light fixtures and will give you a comprehensive report with recommenda- tions on how you can save energy and money.

The following energy efficiency improvements are eligible for the HEAT Loan Program:

  • High Efficiency Heating Systems
  • Central Air Conditioning/ Air Source Heat Pumps
  • Ductless Mini Split Heat Pumps
  • High Efficiency Domestic Hot Water Systems
  • Solar Hot Water Systems
  • Attic, Wall, and Basement Insulation
  • 7-Day Digital & Wi Fi Thermostats
  • ENERGY STAR® Qualified Replacement Windows

Once your Energy Audit is completed you will receive a Heat Loan Intake Form which you will need to review and sign.

The staff at Wilson Brothers Heating and Air Conditioning will help you to navigate through the application process and provide you with a list of participating lenders. We are available to answer any question you may have about the proper equipment to install and the Heat Loan Program process.

Visit the Mass Save website to learn more about this program, available to residential customers of National Grid, NSTAR Electric and Gas, and Unitil or call Wilson Brothers at 978-433-5373 or 800-498-5373.

Winter is Coming, Have your heating system tuned-up & maintained

We’ve had everything thrown at us, weather-wise, in the past few years.  We should be used to it.  Early October snowstorms, ice storms, tornado warnings with rain and hail … One thing we know for sure:  Winter is coming and we better be prepared!

Being prepared in New England means more than just having your heating system inspected, tuned up, and maintained.  That’s a given and should be done sooner, rather than later.

I’m talking about a PLAN B!
Do you have one?

Years ago, people in this neck of the woods had a wood stove that came in handy when they had problems with their furnace or there was an unexpected power outage.  Back then, getting a furnace or boiler back up and running after a mechanical failure took time (it sometimes still does).

Over the years, we have grown to take for granted that an “emergency call” for having no heat would be fixed immediately.  However, it sometimes takes days to obtain special parts.

And … we are all too familiar with power outages that can take days or weeks in some cases to return to normal.

So … what can we do?  What is our contingency plan?

You need to protect your home, not just to have the all-season comfort you desire, but also to ensure that pipes don’t burst in homes with no heat because of a power failure or system breakdown.

Talk to us at Wilson Brothers Heating and Cooling to put your PLAN B together.  Your home is your biggest investment and needs protection when the New England weather strikes hard.   We’ll be happy to discuss how each of the following can protect you for the period of time when your heating system is disrupted for any reason:

*    Wood stove
*    Propane or natural gas fireplace insert
*    Whole house generator
*    Electric Heater
If you haven’t had your heating system inspected and tuned up for the 2014 Winter season, call us today for an appointment: 978-433-5373.