Courtesy of GoErie.Com
Cold Expected to Again Take Toll on Home Plumbing
When it’s this cold outside, crank up the heat inside.
Plumbers say that setting the thermostat higher than normal will help keep water pipes from freezing.
“If you have the thermostat set at 62 or 65 right now, you’re crazy,” said Richard George Winston, of George Winston Co. plumbing, at West 12th and Plum streets. “You’ll save $5 on gas and spend $500 on plumbing repairs.”
Instead, set the thermostat at 75 degrees, Winston said.
“On top of protecting the pipes, you’ll be more comfortable,” he said.
Local plumbers dealt with hundreds of burst pipes when temperatures plunged to 10 below zero earlier this month. They expect long hours again this week. High today is expected to be about 10 degrees. Low Thursday is expected to be below zero, according to the National Weather Service in Cleveland.
Worse news for home plumbing: Wind chill could drop as low as 20 below zero.
“It’s wind chill that causes pipes to freeze,” said H. Jack Langer, of H. Jack Langer Plumbing & Heating Co., based at 1523 Cascade St. “It doesn’t always happen when the temperature is 40 below, but can happen when it’s 10 degrees and there’s a strong wind blowing through the house.”
Wind chills as cold as 38 below zero on Jan. 6 and 7 wreaked havoc on local plumbing.
“If I’d had 100 trucks in Cleveland, I couldn’t have stayed up with all of the jobs,” said Langer, whose company provides plumbing services throughout the tristate region. “Even in Erie, we couldn’t stay up with them, and a lot of people worked well over 70 hours that week.”
Winston plumbers also hustled to keep up with the calls.
“It was the worst I’ve ever seen for burst pipes in homes that had heat on,” Winston said.
Burst pipes were the most common homeowners’ claim received by Erie Insurance that week, company spokeswoman Leah Knapp said.
State Farm reported more than 2,400 insurance claims in Pennsylvania caused by pipes that froze in the extreme cold. Average claims approached $15,000, State Farm spokesman Dave Phillips said.
“The damage depends on how quickly you catch the burst,” Phillips said. “If it’s not caught quickly enough, saturation comes into effect, in ceilings, walls and home contents. Water can also get into the woodwork and damage the home’s electrical system.”
Both metal and plastic pipes can freeze. A crack as small as 1/8 of an inch can gush 250 gallons of water a day, Phillips said.
Langer recommends dialing the thermostat up to 72 degrees to help prevent that damage and expense.
“When it gets as cold as this, a lot of furnaces won’t keep up with it. They might only get to 68 degrees even though they’re set to 72,” he said.
A large percentage of the pipes that froze earlier this month were in unheated crawl spaces and should have been insulated with heat tape, Langer said.
Drains in lines going to kitchen sinks and bathtubs also froze because the pipes were on exterior walls, where they got colder. Langer recommends opening cabinet doors and plumbing access walls to allow heat from the kitchen and bathroom to circulate around the pipes and help prevent them from freezing.
Keeping the water on at a drizzle overnight also prevents unheated pipes from freezing, Winston said.
“Flowing water won’t freeze, even at low volume,” he said.
Also, shut the garage door, said Cori Banks, of Yurkovic Plumbing, at 2828 Buffalo Road.
“The garage lets a lot of cold air into the house. Keeping the door closed will keep the pipes warmer,” she said.