Did you know that every winter over a quarter million homeowners have at least a part of their home destroyed by a frozen pipes? In fact, a survey of insurance companies during the 2000’s showed that over $4 billion dollars worth of damage has been caused by frozen pipe claims alone.
Each summer people from all over descend upon Southern Delaware to enjoy their wonderful beaches; however, when the summer fun is over, and people go back home, just like other states in the North East it too can suffer from cold and unpleasant weather during the winter months, making it susceptible to frozen pipes. The combination of empty homes and freezing temperatures can be a recipe for disaster in Delaware beach houses.
Therefore, it is vital to protect your home from frozen pipes by taking preventive measures, monitoring your home throughout the winter and taking action quickly if a frozen pipe occurs in order to prevent serious damage.
A frozen pipe can occur to any pipe in your home that has water in it and is exposed to freezing temperatures. When water turns to ice it expands forcing the pipe to expand with it. The pipe can continue to expand until it bursts! This can occur anytime the temperature drops below 32 degrees but becomes especially more likely when dropping below 20 degrees.
The average temperature in Delaware for the months of December, January and February are all below 30 degrees with temperatures during that time period often dipping into the low teens making this a common issue for homeowners in Delaware.
The severity of damage caused by a frozen pipe can vary greatly based on two major factors:
Any location that is adjacent to an exterior wall is naturally more susceptible to freezing temperatures. If you have pipes in places like your garage, pool area, etc. that are not as insulated as an interior room they should be closely monitored. In addition, your lower levels like basements and crawl spaces are naturally colder and therefore more vulnerable as well.
When a frozen pipe bursts any unfrozen water that was inside the pipe will come rushing out causing water damage to any room that it is located in. This is not even the worst part; the real damage occurs when the water is left sitting there for even a brief amount of time (24-48 hours) as mold will begin to grow.
This small window of time makes all the difference between some water damage to your home, that while inconvenient can still be remedied, or a mold infestation that can make your home uninhabitable. Timing is very important!
This problem is exacerbated for anyone who is a seasonal resident. Unlike full-time residents who should be able to respond immediately to any frozen pipe issues, many southern Delaware homeowners are not present during the winter months, running the risk of not knowing about the problem until it is far too late.
Most homeowner insurance policies will cover the damage that occurs as a result of a frozen pipe but there are provisions and exclusions that could cause some of the cost of repair to come out of your own pocket.
Seasonal homeowners should keep in mind that insurance policies often include provisions for mitigating your damage in a timely fashion. If there is damage that results due to your lack of timely mitigation, then there is the possibility of it not being covered. Therefore, it is important to have someone periodically checking the home, such as a home watch professional, who can alert you to any problems right away.
While there is always the possibility of your home suffering a frozen pipe, there are a number of easy steps you can take to help prevent frozen pipes from happening to you.
The temperature must be below 32 degrees in order for water to freeze, therefore making sure your thermostat is never set below 55 degrees is the best way to keep ice from forming.
Year-round residents will undoubtedly have their thermostat set higher simply for comfort sake.
However, seasonal residents may find it tempting to try and save a few bucks on their energy bill while not home, but it could inadvertently end up costing you far more money in the long run. Further, your home watch professional should be confirming your thermostat is functioning properly each visit and notify you immediately if not.
Take the time to insulate the most vulnerable pipes in your home. Doing so will allow your pipes to better retain heat making them less likely to freeze. This will take some time and money on your part, but the investment is well worth it to care for your home while you are away during the winter.
It is important to make sure things like your garage door, windows, and external entry ways are sealed and secured properly to help your home maintain its internal temperature, decreasing the likelihood of your pipes freezing.
Seasonal residents should double check that their home is properly secured before leaving for winter. Further, your home watch company should have procedures in place each visit to properly secure the home upon leaving, both against the elements and potential intruders.
Opening up your cabinets will allow the air to circulate, bringing that warmer air found throughout the house into the colder recesses that were previously blocked off. If you are a full-time resident, while this can be an inconvenience, it is an important step on nights that drop into the teens.
Leaving your cabinets open is far easier for part-time residents, as this can be done before leaving for the season with minimal inconvenience. If you forget, be sure to request your home watch professional does so before the temperature drops.
As much as we would all love to be able to take every single step possible to ensure we do not suffer the consequences of a frozen pipe, the reality is that some measures should only be taken when you are there to ensure safety.
If you know it is going to be a particularly cold night you can turn your faucets on just enough to cause a very slow drip. This will cause the water that usually sits still in your pipes to move which helps prevent it from freezing. Once the severe cold weather has passed you can then turn your faucets off until the next cold wave comes.
If you have an older home with poor insulation or a particular room that is not well insulated, you can utilize a space heater on cold nights to supplement your homes main heat source. This should be done with an extra layer of caution as space heaters posetheir own risks to your home such as a fire; you should never operate a space heater without direct supervision.
These steps should only be used by full-time residents who are present in order to monitor for safety.
Preparation is vital to prevent frozen pipes. If you plan to do any of the above, such as insulating your pipes, it is best to do so before the weather turns.
Taking all the preventive measures you can is a great first step in preventing frozen pipes, but you should also be consistently monitoring your home throughout the winter.
The key to monitoring your home properly is to know what to look for and where to look for it. Every home has areas more at risk than others and today’s technology offers ways to help monitor your home even when you are away.
You should have a list of high-risk areas and locations that are more susceptible to water leaks. Some areas to consider are:
Full-time residents should check these areas periodically throughout the winter and especially after severely cold nights.
Seasonal residents are not able to do this in person and should have someone available who can do this on their behalf. If you are employing a home watch professional, be sure they are checking high-risk areas of your home on a consistent basis to ensure that if there are any issues they are addressed right away. After an exceptionally cold night or two it may be prudent to have an emergency home watch visit to ensure no pipes were frozen as it could be upwards of two weeks before another check will be performed otherwise.
A smart thermostat is practically essential in today’s world as you can easily monitor your homes internal temperature even when you are not around. In addition, there are water-leak detecting technologies available from companies such as LeakSmart that have temperature sensors with the ability to detect when a pipe begins to freeze. Connectivity is very important whenever you are gone for long periods of time; therefore, try and use data plan enabled devices over wireless ones to ensure connectivity in the event of a power outage or surge.
Further, technology can be prone to failure or malfunction. If you are apart-time resident it is important to have someone periodically checking your home, such a home watchprofessional, who can monitor both your home and its technology.
A homeowner’s ability to handle a frozen pipe depends greatly on severity and how quickly it is identified. There are several easy steps a homeowner can take to mitigate the issue before it bursts:
Always turn off the main water supply to your house before attempting any of the above and never use an open flame heat source such as a blow torch.
Seasonal residents are typically not around in the winter to be able to perform these actions, but they can easily be utilized by a home watch professional on behalf of a part-time resident.
Further, if you do not catch the frozen pipe before it bursts then you will likely need professional help. It is a good idea to have a trusted remediation company on file and of course contact your insurance company immediately as they will likely have certain requirements for you to follow to ensure coverage. If you are not sure of who to contact in the event of an emergency your home watch company should have a list of companies they can provide to you.
Owning a beach Home in Delaware is a dream come true for many; Therefore, it is important to protect your dream even when you are not there.
Frozen pipes are easily preventable by taking simple measures. Certain things like space heaters and dripping faucets may only be practical for full-time residents but there are many things that both full and part-time residents can do. Keeping your thermostat above 55 degrees, securing your home from the elements, opening cabinets and insulating your pipes are all important measures.
The key to avoiding frozen pipes from bursting is combining prevention with monitoring. Have a list of high-risk areas, use smart home tech and if gone for a long time have someone, such as a home watch company, periodically check on your behalf. When all of these things are incorporated you greatly reduce the chances of a disaster happening to you.
Lastly, keep in mind that if you catch a frozen pipe before it bursts, don’t panic, there are several easy actions you can take to prevent any additional damage to your home.
Whether a full or part time resident it is imperative to take steps to care for your home whether here or away. If you have any questions for the Halo Home Watch Team, please email us or leave a comment below!