When cold weather sets in, keep those water pipes warm

Temperatures are prone to nose-dive in January, and there's no quicker way to put the freeze on water pipes. Just one water pipe that cracks because of freezing can spill 245 gallons of water into a home in a single day. This problem isn't limited to Northern regions. Plumbing in balmy climes can be just as vulnerable because residents don't always take precautions in areas that are traditionally warm. Their pipes may not be well insulated. Waterlines may be placed on the outside of the house or not be buried deep enough in the ground.

Here are a few tips on how to keep those water pipes intact from a staff consultant at Kemper Group, a homeowners insurer.

Certain pipes need special watching. Pay heed to those in kitchens and bathrooms on a north wall or northwest corner. Attic water pipes also freeze up more quickly. The same goes for pipes in bathrooms on outside walls.

Insulate your water pipes. Hardware stores sell various types of tape that are good. You can even do a wrap job with newspapers and string.

When the thermometer plummets to single numbers, keep water in the pipes flowing at a slow trickle. True, this is a waste of water, but it's better than wasting a flood of water with a broken pipe. Water that's standing still freezes more quickly than moving water.

If you live in an area where the cold stretches are long and frigid, you might want to try some electric heat tape. This tape is made up of small electric wires encased in plastic strips.The strips are wound around the pipes and can be turned on when the weather is cold. It's all right to leave the tape on the pipes throughout the year.

When wrapping the tape, follow directions specifically. Be sure not to overlap the tape, and check for signs of wear.

If you have cabinets beneath your bathroom and kitchen sinks, open the cabinet doors during cold spells. This allows warm air to venture into these areas that trap cold air. This is especially necessary if the sinks are on outside walls. You might consider warming the air with a portable heater. Once warm air has started circulating, there's less danger of a frozen pipe.

If you have waterlines in crawl spaces, make sure all the ventilation openings are closed up before winter months.

While you're on that winter vacation, ask a neighbor to check the house. Leave specific written instructions on what to do if the weather takes a cold turn, and a phone number where you can be reached.

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