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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.

Using your HVAC system in the winter doesn't have to dry out your home

Beating Winter Dryness Indoors

Everyone in New England can remember beating a cold night by cranking up the heat, blissfully falling asleep in a toasty-warm room, only to wake up with a face so dry they fear it will crack.

Winter dryness can lead to nose bleeds, skin problems, sore throats, itchiness and other health issues in inhabitants. Your flesh isn’t the only thing at risk from dryness either, the low humidity can warp wood and cause paint to peel or discolor. The dryness can also crisp houseplants and damage antiques and old photographs.

The HVAC isn’t the only source of winter dryness; the outdoor air is noticeably drier when most moisture if frozen solid, but your HVAC system can help you solve the winter dryness by incorporating a humidifier system.

We recommend, and install, both the Automatic Humidifier from Aprilaire and the TrueSTEAM Humidification System from Honeywell. (1) Both of these systems are far superior to old fashioned humidifiers, where homeowners had to lug water to the machine and guess where to set the manual controls to meet their moisture needs.

The new systems can detect your home’s humidity, fill up with water automatically and release it through the entire house.

You can give up the guesswork needed for old fashioned freestanding humidifiers, which could result in over humidifying ones home, with a modern automatic system. The best part is you won’t wake up reaching for the moisturizer again.

(1) https://www.wilsonbrothers.com/indoor-air-quality/humidifiers/

Radient Heating Installations, Central Massachusetts

Why radiant heating could make you love your bathroom

People who have lived in older houses have all experienced the mid-winter chill that comes from stepping barefoot on the cold floor of a bathroom during the middle of the night. Hot air rises and the hard tile floors can be the hardest spot to warm up during a January night.

That’s where radiant floor heating packs the biggest wallop. We install water pipes under the floorboards or tile floor that is connected to a boiler. The water carries the heat through the pipes and it heats up the floor itself. We recommend using it with hardwoods or ceramic tiles, as those materials will retain the heat.

The beauty of the system is that the heat stays low where people need it the most, as opposed to other heating systems that mostly heat the air. Unlike other heating systems, there’s no hot stove or radiator that could burn a person, and people with allergies don’t have to worry about pollen or other allergens being distributed into the air.

Radiant floor heating can be installed in any room, but it’s much more economical to place it in new homes and expansions, as opposes to tearing up floors to retrofit existing rooms. Any covering that insulates the floor, such as a thick carpet, would lower the efficiency of the heating system, so floor options are limited.

But if you’ve taken one too many steps on cold tiles, or found yourself huddling close to the stove, consider the heating system that tackles your heating needs from the bottom up.

Winter Heating in Massachusetts, Keeping Warm in the Winter in MA

Keeping your holiday party warm

Christmas parties and holiday gathers are annual features of December, but so are snow, ice and cold air. Make sure the next December party you throw is warm enough for people to take their jackets off and get in the holiday spirit.

Before you even start planning the party you should check the insulation of your home to minimize any heat loss. Do you have weatherstripping in your doors and windows? Did you insulate your power outlets and light switches to cut down on drafts?

Also, try to minimize how long the front door is open when guests arrive, otherwise making it harder for your heating system to work. The larger the gathering, the more the door will open.

Use a smart thermostat to control your heating system. With all the distractions and responsibilities demanded of a party host it’s easy to forget to adjust the heat in time for the party, or you may want to make it a little warmer indoors to account for people coming and going, then level it off as the party winds down. If you have a heating system that doesn’t use a thermostat you can dub a volunteer to be in charge of maintaining the temperature.

Encourage your guests to dress warmly. While you can simply tell them that they should dress for December, it’s a lot more fun to ask people to wear obnoxious Christmas sweaters. You can also put the food and any activities in the same room as the heating source.

Lastly, try serving hot chocolate, mulled cider or peppermint tea or any other food or drink that will warm people up on the inside. Use a slow cooker or electric kettle to keep things warm all evening.