Keep the water flowing: Avoiding frozen pipes this winter

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RAPID CITY, S.D. -

Winter is finally here, and with it has come the first extended period of bitterly cold temperatures. And these temperatures, which may dip into the -20s, will be with us for at least the next couple of days. With such cold, plumbers are busier than ever fixing frozen and broken pipes.

“In the worst case, what happens is the ice builds up, and the pressure will actually blow pipe fittings, fixtures, toilets, and stuff like that apart,” said Mark Falcon, owner of Loyal Plumbing in Rapid City. “And the real issue is not that those things break. The issue is that when things start to melt again and the water comes back, it’ll flood a house.”

As for the cost of repairing such damage?

“The damage could be tens of thousands of dollars,” Falcon said.

But with only a few simple steps, you can avoid the cost and inconvenience of frozen, broken pipes.

When the weather forecast calls for temperatures well below freezing, let faucets drip slowly, since moving water in pipes won’t freeze. Also open cabinet doors in your kitchen and bathroom where pipes are to let warm air in the house circulate around them.

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Mobile homes are especially vulnerable to frozen pipes due to the empty space under them. They need properly installed insulation and heat tape on exterior pipes.

Outdoor spigots are a hotspot for freezing pipes, so once the weather starts getting cold, close the valve to the spigot, then open the spigot to allow any freezing water

If you plan to be away from home for more than a day, set your heat to about 55 degrees. That temperature will keep the house warm enough to prevent frozen pipes, but will not put too much stress on the furnace.

It’s also a good idea to have a neighbor or relative check on the house every day, to make sure the furnace is still running well, and to look for things like broken windows, or other signs of heating and pipe trouble.

For longer periods of time away from your home, consider turning off the water main.

It is also important to check the water of the elderly and disabled, who may not be able to regularly check the plumbing in some parts of their homes such as a basement, or upper floor.

If the pipes do freeze, the sooner a professional is called, the better to avoid costly repairs.

Of course, the most important thing is to keep your plumbing and furnace properly maintained all year.

“The number one thing that I believe you can do is maintain your heating source,” Falcon said. “Make sure your furnace is good to go and your filters are changed. Because if your furnace shuts down, that’s when you’re going to see freezing on your pipes become automatic.”

The most obvious sign of freezing pipes is a lack of water coming out of the faucets. If no water comes out, call a professional plumber immediately to avoid possible water damage.

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