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Ways to prep the house for freezing weather

An insurance agency has released a list of tips to consider as temperatures continue to plummet this winter.

When a house’s water pipes freeze, the situation is not as simple as calling a plumber, according to a news release from State Farm.

“A 1/8-inch crack in a pipe can spew up to 250 gallons of water a day, causing flooding, serious structural damage, and the immediate potential for mold,” the release stated.

Frozen water pipes are a problem in both cold and warmer climates, affecting a quarter-million families each winter, and it can happen in homes with both plastic and copper pipes. It’s all too common, especially considering this damage is largely preventable.

In addition to taking the usual preventive precautions, the following are steps homeowners can take to keep pipes from freezing:

• A trickle of hot and cold water might be all it takes to keep pipes from freezing. Let warm water drip overnight, preferably from a faucet on an outside wall.

• Keep thermostats set at the same temperature during both day and night.

• Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to un-insulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.

If leaving town, the news release  offered the following advice:

• Set the thermostat no lower than 55°F (12°C).

• Ask a friend or neighbor to check the house daily to make sure it’s warm enough to prevent freezing.

• Shut off and drain the water system. Be aware that if there’s a fire protection sprinkler system in the house, it may be deactivated when shutting off the water.

If pipes freeze:

• If you turn on your faucets and nothing comes out, leave the faucets turned on and call a plumber.

• Do not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water. You could be electrocuted.

• Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame because it could cause a fire hazard. Water damage is preferable to burning down the house.

• You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe using a hair dryer. Start by warming the pipe as close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe.

• If your water pipes have already burst, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve in the house; leave the water faucets turned on. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the water shutoff valve is and how to open and close it.