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Get Winter Wiser: Freezing Pipes

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You may love it or you may hate it but it’s coming. Winter… More accurately… Cold!

Here in Pennsylvania it can feel like winter last for 8 months, and sometimes it does.  You wouldn’t go outside without a coat in a snowstorm, so why should your home be any different.

To help winterize your home and avoid freezing pipes, here are the first steps:

  • First, identify your home’s freezing points. In other words, where does your home need a coat in a snowstorm?
  • Know how to shut off your water. Locate your main water shut-off valve and make sure it is easy to get to.
  • Wrap your pipes with insulation or heat tape.  Especially if they are exposed to colder temperatures.

If temperatures stay below freezing for long periods of time:

  • Let it flow!  Even a trickle is usually enough to keep pipes from freezing (and to drive you nuts while sleeping). So, turn on the water to pipes and allow a small amount to run.
  • Open your cabinets or vanities to allow warm air to get to your pipes.

If your pipes do freeze:

  • Shut off the water immediately. Do not attempt to thaw pipes without turning off the main shut-off valve.
  • Melt the frozen water in the pipe with warm air. Do not leave space heaters unattended or you may end up with an even bigger, hotter claim.
  • Once pipes are thawed, slowly turn the water back on and check for any leaks.  This is a two person job – maybe more.

How will your homeowners insurance or business insurance policy respond?

Good news!  Most property insurance including home insurance policies will pay for damage from frozen pipes.

Obviously, the insurance carrier will require that you maintain heat or drain the system.  Usually, the policy language says something like ‘use reasonable care to …’.

So if you’re planning on going to Florida (Pittsburgh South) for the winter, make sure you’ve paid your utility bills and set your thermostat.

On the other hand, home insurance won’t cover that inflated water bill.

If you’re away for a week and the water is pouring out, you’re going to have a big bill.  Unfortunately, don’t expect any relief from your homeowners insurance.

In short, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Frozen pipes are one of the easiest claims to prevent. Take care of your pipes before they freeze and you’ll never have to learn the hard way.