Avoid expensive plumbing disasters in the winter | NevadaAppeal.com

Avoid expensive plumbing disasters in the winter

Kirk Caraway
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer

The latest cold snap has local plumbers busy fixing frozen pipes all over the city.

Problems caused by freezing pipes can range from the minor inconvenience of having a faucet that will not work, to burst pipes that can cause thousands of dollars in damage.

Greg Petersen, of Petersen Plumbing, offers a few tips on how to keep pipes from freezing.

The easiest thing to do is to keep the water running.

“Water is really inexpensive compared to a repair bill or a high heating bill,” Petersen said. “If the water is stationary, it’s going to freeze.”

He recommends opening faucets that might be prone to freezing (such as those adjacent to outside walls) to let a steady stream flow out, about the diameter of a pencil. “A drip is not enough.”

Often, just opening the cabinets under sinks, or the doors of laundry closets can get enough heat in to keep them from freezing.

Another overlooked problem is uncovered foundation vents that can let cold air circulate under you house.

“Cover them with a thin piece of wood, or stuff old towels in the vents, anything to keep the wind from cutting through,” Petersen said.

If you live in a mobile home, make sure the skirting around the bottom is secure and doesn’t let cold air in.

One other items often overlooked is unhooking your garden hose from the outside faucet. Without a way to drain the water away, the faucet can freeze and break.

One thing not to do is to use kerosene heaters inside any living area. These can put out carbon monoxide that can kill.

It is also important for people to know how to shut off their water in case they have pipes that freeze.

Otherwise, you can end up in a flood before someone can reach your home to stop the water flowing through broken pipes.

Petersen said to locate your water meter, and water can be shut off from there. You may need to visit your local hardware store to buy a key to shut off the switch.

If you can’t find your water meter, you can call Carson City Utilities, which can point you in the right direction. They can also come out and turn off the water for free if you are unable to do so, but you will have to pay to turn it back on. Their number is 887-2355.

Petersen said if you have a well, you will have to turn off the power to the well pump, and shut the valve on the pressure tank, in order to stop water from flowing.

And if you do end up frozen pipes, make sure to call a licensed plumber who can repair them correctly and safely, and can take steps to prevent future freezing problems.

– Contact reporter Kirk Caraway at kcaraway@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1261.