Ocean County Press Release
Frozen Pipes Can Be Costly Problem
1/16/2014

A RECENT polar vortex left in its wake a host of problems notwithstanding the pricey and inconvenient frozen pipe.

"From a nursing home having to be evacuated in southern Ocean County to plumbers working around the clock in order to respond to the calls, frozen pipes create havoc in cold weather, often sending water cascading down walls, ruining floors and creating safety hazards," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari.

As Chairman of Consumer Affairs in Ocean County, Vicari said that with precautions frozen pipes are largely preventable.

Vicari with the Ocean County Department of Consumer offers steps that can be taken to prevent pipes from freezing. They include:
• Insulate pipes in your home's crawl spaces and attic, even if you live in a climate where freezing is uncommon. Exposed pipes are most susceptible to freezing. Remember: The more insulation you use, the better protected your pipes will be.
• Heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables can be used to wrap pipes. Be sure to use products approved by an independent testing organization, such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc., and only for the use intended (exterior or interior). Closely follow all manufacturers' installation and operation instructions.
• Seal leaks that allow cold air inside near where pipes are located. Look for air leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents, and pipes, and use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out. With severe cold, even a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze.
• Before winter hits, disconnect garden hoses and, if possible, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets, reducing the chance of freezing in the span of pipe just inside the house.
• Keep your thermostat set at the same temperature during both day and night. You might be in the habit of turning down the heat when you're asleep, but further drops in the temperature – more common overnight – could catch you off guard and freeze your pipes.
• Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to un-insulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.
• According to the Weather Channel letting a faucet drip during extreme cold weather can prevent a pipe from bursting. Opening a faucet will provide relief from the excessive pressure that builds between the faucet and the ice blockage when freezing occurs. If there is no excessive water pressure, there is no burst pipe, even if the water inside the pipe freezes.

A dripping faucet wastes some water, so only pipes vulnerable to freezing (ones that run through an unheated or unprotected space) should be left with the water flowing. The drip can be very slight. Even the slowest drip at normal pressure will provide pressure relief when needed. Where both hot and cold lines serve a spigot, make sure each one contributes to the drip, since both are subjected to freezing.

If the dripping stops, leave the faucet open, since a frozen pipe will still need pressure relief.

Another suggested precaution is to drain your pipes when going away during the winter and to not set your thermostat any lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

If your pipes do freeze – Don't Panic.

After turning off your main water source and before hiring a plumber, Vicari suggests calling the Consumer Affairs office at 732-929-2105 to see if there are any complaints filed against the plumber you're thinking of hiring.

"Checking for complaints can help you make a more informed decision and maybe prevent another headache of a different kind by hiring the wrong contractor," Vicari said.

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