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Frozen Pipes and Furnace Problems from Below Normal Temps - Boston, Worcester, MA

12 Feb 2014

Extremely low temperatures have become the norm creating a long busy winter season for plumbing companies because of frozen pipes and malfunctioning furnaces.

More and more homeowners are experiencing problems with flooding, frozen pipes and even frozen drain lines that started just before Christmas. More and more homeowners are contending with malfunctioning furnaces and frozen pipes in this latest round of below-normal temperatures.

To prevent frozen pipes, homeowners should be aware of the obvious causes like cracks in the walls or broken windows. Another cause of frozen pipes that most homeowners don’t think about is the cold air coming in through the dryer vents.

If you don't have a damper on your dryer vent, the wind will blow right in there. A lot of time you see dryer vents that are right near water pipes. The cold air will follow the vent right in and freeze the pipe.

Some homeowners attempt to address problems with frozen pipes themselves. Oftentimes this can be a recipe for disaster, since the average person does not have the proper equipment or training to deal with these plumbing issues.

Here are a few important suggestions for homeowners while they are waiting for professional plumbers to arrive. Locate your main water shutoff and turn it off after the pipe has frozen and before a pipe bursts in order to prevent flooding. Additionally, rather than using an open flame, which can lead to insulation igniting, Apply heat from an electric hair dryer or a hot rag on the frozen pipes.

Preventive measures are also good to keep in mind. The ideal temperature to keep the thermostat varies depending on the age of the home. If you have an older home you'll want to keep it a little warmer, newer homes are better insulated and don't seem to have as many problems. If you have a crawl space in your house you probably want to keep it at least 65 or 70 degrees.

Before the next winter season, wrap heat tape around your piping system to keep the heat around the pipes before they freeze or using foam pipe or regular pipe insulation. Another simple fix is to leave a faucet running a bit to keep water moving through your piping system since generally moving water does not freeze.

If you pipes have frozen, contact Greater Boston Heating and Plumbing.


Prevent Frozen Pipes and How to Thaw Pipes if They Freeze-Worcester, Boston

08 Jan 2014

Frozen pipes occur most frequently when they are exposed to severe cold, like those in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages or kitchen cabinets.

With the cold arctic air and wind chills that have been hanging around Worcester and Boston we have been experiencing some of the coldest weather in years. With single digit temperatures, frozen water pipes in unheated basements and crawl spaces are a concern for homeowners.

The American Red Cross suggests tips on how to prevent pipes from freezing and what to do if water pipes freeze.

Why Pipe Freezing is a Problem

Water expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on metal or plastic pipes. No matter how strong, expanding water can cause pipes to break. Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets. Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing.

Preventing Frozen Pipes

Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer's or installer's directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed.  
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  • Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a "pipe sleeve" or installing UL-listed "heat tape," "heat cable," or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes.

During Cold Weather:

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
  • Do not pour antifreeze in your pipes to prevent freezing. It is the pipes that bring water to your home that you want to prevent from freezing. Additionally, antifreeze is a poisonous, hazardous substance, you don’t want this in your sewage system or leaking  into your soil.

To Thaw Frozen Pipes

  • If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe.
  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater, or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber in Boston.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

Future Protection

  • Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.
  • Pipes can be relocated by a professional plumber if the home is remodeled.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.

For more information, please contact a licensed plumber like Greater Boston Plumbing and Heating.

Prevent Frozen Pipes – Boston, Worcester

02 Jan 2014

Temperatures are falling into the teens and below, and a big Nor'easter has arrived. Both have plumbers preparing for overtime. Protecting water pipes is your first line of defense.

Plumbers will tell you that there's no substitute for insulating water pipes from the cold. Plumbers keep boxes of pipe insulation for water lines that could be exposed to freezing temperatures. They say water lines buried at least 18-inches in the ground rarely freeze in our area. But if they're exposed to a cold foundation wall or in a draft from outside air, there's a possibility of cracked pipes and big leaks. The pipes freeze, the water freezes, and the water pipes crack. Once the water defrosts, you will see the pipes leaking, you don’t know you have a problem until you have big-time water problems.

Older homes are more vulnerable to frozen pipes because of the plumbing that may not be insulated between the floor and the ground. Homeowners are also warned to remove hoses from foundation faucets that can cause split pipes during freezing temperatures.

Pipe insulation is easy to install is usually available at home improvement stores. If you have problems with frozen or cracked pipes this winter, contact Greater Boston Plumbing and Heating.

Frozen Pipes are a Common Winter Problem You Want to Avoid – Worcester, Boston

11 Dec 2013

During the winter in Boston and Worcester plumbing service companies get a high number of calls from people needing their water lines fixed.  As the cold weather settles in, many homeowners are worried about their heating costs rising and keeping their houses warm. Another cause for concern this time of year is frozen pipes.

Most of the plumbing problems this time of year are due to freezing pipes. Typically the frozen pipes are caused by open cracks in foundations, windows, and doors that leave pipes susceptible to the outside elements.

Make sure all windows are closed and that cracks are sealed. Any pipes that are within 10 to 12 inches to the outside walls should be insulated.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation where your water pipes burst there are steps you need to take immediately in order to prevent a lot of damage in your home. First find the water meter, typically there is a main shut off valve there. Immediately shut that valve and then call your local plumber. Even just a minute of water running from a burst pipe can do thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to your home.

Also, to prevent frozen pipes, undo and turn off the water to your outside hoses and spickets. If you have an older home with a history of frozen pipes and the temperature is very cold, let some water slowly drip from your faucet overnight or while away. You can also keep the cabinet doors open underneath your sinks to let in the heat.

If find yourself with frozen pipes, contact Greater Boston Plumbing and Heating.


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