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  Comments (0) Total Friday Apr. 18, 2014
Winterize Your Home
Montana Lifestyles
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A much colder winter this year predicted by The Old Farmer’s Almanac threatens to cause even more frozen-pipe damage to homes than last year. That is, of course, unless homeowners fight back the cold with simple steps to protect homes. When winter blows freezing temperatures, the two most common risks to your home are ice dams and frozen pipes.

According to claims data compiled by Nationwide and Allied Insurance, the average frozen pipe insurance claim tops more than $10,000. In just three years – 2009-2011 – Nationwide and Allied received more than 30,000 homeowners’ frozen pipes claims from across the country, totaling more than $2.1 million in damages.

“Ruptured pipes in winter are one of the most common claims and the onslaught of a predicted colder winter will no doubt make it a tough season for home owners unless they take preventative action to protect their homes,” said Pete Lore, nationwide associate vice president of claims. “We urge home owners to take action and avoid frustration caused by frozen pipe water damage, especially those traveling away from home for significant periods of time.”

Ice dams occur when heavy snow buildup melts during the day and then refreezes as temperatures drop overnight. After several days of this cycle, the melted water and ice build up under the shingles, entering the attic and damaging ceilings, walls, and contents.

To help prevent dams from forming keep gutters and downspouts clear of debris, snow, and ice so melting roof snow can flow. Keep snow on your roof to a minimum. Roof rakes let you stand on the ground to safely pull the snow off the roof. Evaluate attic insulation and ventilation. Good airflow is essential to a cool, dry attic.

Frozen water can cause pressure buildup leading to pipes bursting. Pipes in attics, crawl spaces, and outside walls are particularly vulnerable to freezing, where holes in the home’s outside wall for television, cable, or telephone lines allow cold air to reach them.

Frozen water pipes can cause extensive home damage. If you think turning the heat down while you’re away or on vacation will save you money, think again. If your water pipes freeze and burst, it could cause thousands of dollars in damage.

Although an expensive and dramatic seasonal issue, homeowners can avoid disaster by implementing some simple preventive measures. Most importantly, locate, identify and insulate pipes susceptible to freezing — typically near outer walls, in crawl spaces, or in the attic. Wrap pipes with UL-approved heat tape and seal air leaks. It is vital to disconnect garden hoses and shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. Drain and shut off the water supply (except indoor sprinkler systems) if you expect to be away for several days. Have someone check regularly to ensure the heat is still on and things are all fine in weather that is extreme. Make sure you and your family all know how to shut off the water to your home.

Try these tips to keep water in your home’s pipes from freezing:

  • Keep cabinet doors open during cold spells to allow warm air to circulate around pipes (particularly in the kitchen and bathroom).
  • Keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets connected to pipes that run through an unheated or unprotected space. Another option is to drain the water system, especially if your house will be unattended during cold periods.
  • Fit exposed pipes with insulation sleeves or wrapping to slow the heat transfer, often times the more insulation the better.
  • Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes with caulking.

If you do discover frozen pipes:

  • Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch.
  • If pipes burst, stop the flow of water as soon as possible to minimize damage.
  • Be mindful of the risk of electric shock in and around standing water.
  • Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent right away.

Preventing water damage is much less expensive than paying for costly repairs.

Detecting problem areas before issues arise can be as simple as following a few basic home inspection techniques. Some consider these tactics the same as any “wellness” check we have each year at the doctor.

Caring for a home is very similar. A little prior planning often averts disaster.
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