Tips for protecting plumbing and heating during cold spells

Plumbing

• Turn off outside water valves – Turn off all outside water valves and look for pipes in un-insulated areas, such as those running along outer walls. These pipes should be wrapped with foam or towels for the season. The average homeowner’s expense for a pipe rupture is about $15,000, according to State Farm Insurance.

• Know the location of your home’s main water valve – In case of a pipe bursting, it’s critical to know where the main shut-off valve is located. The valve is usually next to the water meter and should be kept in good condition and opened and closed once a year.

• Conserve energy, but don’t go too low – When you’re away from home, you might be tempted to turn down the heat to save energy. But turning it too low increases the risk of frozen and ruptured pipes. And the damage could be greater if not noticed for days or weeks. To best prevent a rupture, the home’s temperature should be no lower than 45 degrees.

• Make sure your water heater runs properly – A professional plumber can service the unit and making any necessary repairs. When adjusting the heater’s water temperatures, don’t set the dial above 125 degrees, to prevent scalding and reduce energy waste.

• Don’t clog kitchen drains and disposals – Fats and oils should never be poured down the drain, as they can congeal and clog pipes. Allow grease to congeal and then scrape into trash. Turn on the garbage disposal first and then add food debris. Then shut it off and run plenty of water down the drain.

• Prepare for outside drainage – Winterizing your lawn by removing debris can help improve drainage from snow and rain. Make sure gutters and downspouts are clear.

Heating & energy efficiency

• Lower thermostat and save – You can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating bills by setting the temperature back 7 to 10 degrees. Put on a sweater to stay warm.

• Lay down a rug for more heat – This insulates floors and cuts down on noise.

• Install a furnace filter alarm – These alarms make a whistling noise when they sense that the filter is dirty.

• Check filters – Furnace filters should be checked monthly during the winter.

• Don’t block air vents – Keep air vents clear of furniture and appliances so the heating system can work more efficiently.

• Don’t heat unnecessary places – Avoid heating areas of the home that are not insulated, such as garages, crawlspaces, attics or storage sheds.

• Protect windows – Clear plastic sheeting on windows can add more insulation and reduce drafts.

• Check your chimney – Be sure the damper is closed when the fireplace is not in use.

• Close the garage door – During the winter months, don’t forget to keep the garage door tightly closed as often as possible. This will retain warmer air against the garage-side wall of the house, and will act as a buffer against the colder outside air.

Source: Direct Energy