By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – February 17, 2017 – Comment

While many of us on the east coast have yet to experience a noteworthy snowfall in 2017, we can instantly be transported to that tranquil and utterly soundless paradise through these words of Emily Dickinson. The poetess captures perfectly all that we love about a winter snow – the silence, the peace, the vanishing of stress and schedules.

Reading this poem, it’s not difficult to forget the realities that come with the magic of a winter snow. But for any of us focused on community and residential water issues, it’s also not difficult to imagine this serenity taking a quick and discouraging turn. How might Dickinson capture the chaos that would ensue should a bursting pipe spew all over her “alabaster wool” filled scenery?

Even though we’re into February, we’re not out of the woods yet in terms of harsh temperatures and snowfalls that can wreak havoc on pipes. In fact, 5 of the 12 worst blizzards in U.S. history occurred after February 5—including the 1993 Mid-March Storm of the Century and the more recent “Snowmageddon”.

Water companies are staying prepared with technologies that allow us to monitor potential problems that could be exacerbated by a “deep freeze”, as well as by having contingency plans for maintenance in the case of heavy snow falls. It is equally important for home owners to winterize pipes and exercise preparedness for unavoidable winter water woes! Here are some of our go-to tips for doing just that:

  • If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, bleed the valves by opening them slightly. Close them when water appears.
  • Search your house for uninsulated pipes, especially in unheated areas. Protect exposed pipes by wrapping them with heat tape (following manufacturers’ instructions carefully to avoid a fire hazard), pre-molded foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation.
  • If you’ve already installed heat tape on exposed pipes, inspect the tape for cracks or fraying and make any needed repairs.
  • Open cabinet doors to let heat into areas surrounding pipes.
  • Drain and shut off the water to any unoccupied residence such as a summer or vacation home.
  • Use caulking to seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations, particularly where cable TV or phone lines enter the house.
  • Add extra insulation to the attic.
  • Set the thermostat at 55 degrees if you’re going out of town. This setting is considered to be safe to prevent pipe damage.
  • Make sure all members of your household know the location of your water main and keep the 24-hour service number of your water service provider nearby in case of an emergency.

Lastly, if you’re still behind on chores, remember to also drain any hoses and air conditioner pipes, check for excess water pooled in equipment and clean out gutters and downspouts.

Taking a few steps now and staying on top of your winterizing efforts throughout the season can mean less time worrying and more time enjoying the “crystal veils” and “fleeces” of winter!