Tips for Protecting Property During Sub-Zero Temperatures

Freezing Weather A Threat to Plumbing

Freezing temperatures have been omnipresent in Central Wisconsin, and with them come the need for property owners to be vigilant.

“Everyone should be concerned with freezing temperatures,” said Brian Reigel, Reigel Plumbing & Heating, Inc. “ The main problem people can have is with frozen pipes. If a pipe freezes it can break and cause major water damage, especially when you’re not home. If you do have a leak, know where and how to turn off the water supply to your home or individual fixtures.”

Reigel encourages property owners to ensure the furnace is running properly and that pipes are properly insulated.

Questions to consider:

  • Does the furnace sound funny or take a few tries before starting?
  • Has it been serviced recently?
  • Do you replace your air filter every few months?
  • Do you have items blocking the registers for vents?
  • Are there areas in the home with pipes that do not have proper airflow to get the heat in the area?
  • Is your home well insulated?

“If you suspect a problem with your furnace, have it checked by a professional as soon as possible,” said Reigel. “If you suspect a water line is frozen, try to get air movement to the water lines in the area affected. If that doesn’t get the water lines to thaw, call a professional who has special equipment to thaw piping.”

Other tips Reigel offered are:

Keep snow from building up around your furnace exhaust and intake pipes. The snow can restrict proper air flow and cause your furnace to malfunction.

  • You could have your furnace fan stay on to run constantly to keep air moving for better circulation in the home. This might help keep cold air being from penetrating in one area long enough to freeze a water line.
  • If you have fixtures near an outside wall such as your kitchen sink, open the cabinet doors to help allow the heat to access the pipes in the cabinets during extreme temperatures.
  • Insulating the water lines in crawl spaces or areas of your home that are near exterior walls.
  • Run water through fixtures that you don’t use on a regular basis. If you have a guest bathroom that you don’t normally use run water for a few minutes to be sure there are no issues.

Nick Arnoldy, owner of Marshfield Insurance, also encourages property owners to review their insurance policies prior to having a cold-weather problem.

Pipe burst at Marshfield High School. Photo: Steven Okonek.

“While frozen pipes are a covered peril on most home and commercial property policies, it is important to maintain an adequate temperature inside, suggested is nothing below 55 degrees as wall cavities will likely be colder than the interior,” said Arnoldy. “Property insurance does have requirements for loss prevention. In low temperature situations, failure to attempt to adequately heat the home could result in uncovered damages.”

For properties that are unattended or vacant, special care is needed.

“If you have property that is unattended or vacant check with your agent on the type of policy you have, most have a 30 to 60 day vacancy clause which could remove some coverage like freezing of pipes and vandalism,” he said. “In cases you have unattended property, it is good practice to shut off the water to the structure and to drain the pipes. Also, make sure to check your furnace exhaust to make sure it isn’t blocked from ice accumulation as part of your routine maintenance, and use good common sense.”