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Drought Watch Remains for 36 Counties, DEP Asks for Continued Voluntary Water Conservation

 2022 09 Drought

"The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced today after a meeting of the Commonwealth Drought Task Force that, despite recent rainfall, 36 counties remain on drought watch, with continued voluntary water conservation requested."

Click here for more details.

If you have a weekend house you have to protect yourself year round from plumbing disasters. In the warmer months from April 15 to October 30th you need only turn off the water to the home. Think what would happen if you left the water on and just before you left to return to the city you used the powder room and the toilet never shut off. You weren’t returning for a few weeks and when you did return it would be a disaster! Simply turning off the water prior to leaving, year round, will avert this disaster from happening.

From October 30th until April 15th

The best insurance is to drain your plumbing and winterize. This will prevent a plumbing freeze from happening even if you lose your electric service or heat.

It is best to leave some heat in the house even if you completely drain the plumbing system. Mold and mildew will form from condensation; your upholstery will retain moisture and get mold and mildew forming. Leaving the heat on at least 50 degrees will help eliminate this problem and the house will be much happier and so will you.

To drain and winterize the plumbing system follow the directions below. Every house has areas that may be difficult to drain. This is a basic description on the method to drain any house, but your house probably has some areas that may need additional attention.


Water System

1. Turn off electric supply to water system pump

2. Turn off electric to water heater if electric or Turn off gas supply if gas fired water heater.

3. Shut off water systems by shutting the valve if on municipal water.

4. Drain the pressure tank.

5. Open all faucets.

6. Disconnect all hoses from exterior faucets.

7. Open drain valve closest to the main shut off valve so water will drain out clear to the shut-off valve.

8. Drain pressure or holding tank.

9. Flush toilets and dip all water out of the flush tank. A hand bilge pump works well for this task.

10. Be sure to drain flexible spray hoses in showers and sinks

11. Open diverter valve to shower head so water drains out.

12. Drain water softeners so water will drain back from soft water pipes and controls. Brine tank will probably not freeze.

13. Drain any other water treatment equipment such as whole house filters, carbon filters, UV light filters, etc.

14. Drain water heaters.

Last step is to connect a compressor to the system and blow any remaining water out. You can purchase an inexpensive air compressor for this task. You will need to convert the air connector on the end of the compressors air hose to a water drain faucet fitting. This is easily done using plumbing fittings.

Do the above steps and you will be sure to come back to your weekend home with an intact plumbing system.

When water freezes, it expands. That's why a can of soda explodes if it's put into a freezer to chill quickly and forgotten. When water freezes in a pipe, it expands the same way. If it expands enough, the pipe bursts, water escapes and serious damage results.

Why Pipes Burst

Surprisingly, ice forming in a pipe does not typically cause a break where the ice blockage occurs. It's not the radial expansion of ice against the wall of the pipe that causes the break. Rather, following a complete ice blockage in a pipe, continued freezing and expansion inside the pipe causes water pressure to increase downstream -- between the ice blockage and a closed faucet at the end. It's this increase in water pressure that leads to pipe failure. Usually the pipe bursts where little or no ice has formed. Upstream from the ice blockage the water can always retreat back towards its source, so there is no pressure build-up to cause a break. Water has to freeze for ice blockages to occur. Pipes that are adequately protected along their entire length by placement within the building's insulation, insulation on the pipe itself, or heating, are safe.

Regional Differences

Generally, houses in northern climates are built with the water pipes located on the inside of the building insulation, which protects the pipes from subfreezing weather. However, extremely cold weather and holes in the building that allow a flow of cold air to come into contact with pipes can lead to freezing and bursting.

Water pipes in houses in southern climates often are more vulnerable to winter cold spells. The pipes are more likely to be located in unprotected areas outside of the building insulation, and homeowners tend to be less aware of freezing problems, which may occur only once or twice a season.

Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside walls are all vulnerable to freezing, especially if there are cracks or openings that allow cold, outside air to flow across the pipes. Research at the University of Illinois has shown that wind chill, the cooling effect of air and wind that causes the human body to lose heat, can play a major role in accelerating ice blockage, and thus bursting, in water pipes.

Holes in an outside wall where television, cable or telephone lines enter can provide access for cold air to reach pipes. The size of pipes and their composition (e.g., copper or PVC) have some bearing on how fast ice forms, but they are relatively minor factors in pipe bursting compared with the absence of heat, pipe insulation and exposure to a flow of subfreezing air.

Mitigating the Problem

Water freezes when heat in the water is transferred to subfreezing air. The best way to keep water in pipes from freezing is to slow or stop this transfer of heat.

Ideally, it is best not to expose water pipes to subfreezing temperatures, by placing them only in heated spaces and keeping them out of attics, crawl spaces and vulnerable outside walls. In new construction, proper placement can be designed into the building.

In existing houses, a plumber may be able to re route at-risk pipes to protected areas, although this may not be a practical solution. If the latter is the case, vulnerable pipes that are accessible should be fitted with insulation sleeves or wrapping (which slows the heat transfer), the more insulation the better. It is important not to leave gaps that expose the pipe to cold air. Hardware stores and home centers carry the necessary materials, usually in foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves. Better yet, plumbing supply stores and insulation dealers carry pipe sleeves that feature extra-thick insulation, as much as 1 or 2 thick. The added protection is worth the extra cost.

Cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes should be sealed with caulking to keep cold wind away from the pipes. Kitchen and bathroom cabinets can keep warm inside air from reaching pipes under sinks and in adjacent outside walls. It's a good idea to keep cabinet doors open during cold spells to let the warm air circulate around the pipes. Electric heating tapes and cables are available to run along pipes to keep the water from freezing. These must be used with extreme caution; follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully to avoid the risk of fire, and check to make sure the product conforms to UL 2049. Tapes and cables with a built-in thermostat will turn heat on when needed. Tapes without a thermostat have to be plugged in each time heat is needed, and may be forgotten.

Letting the Water Run

Letting a faucet drip during extreme cold weather can prevent a pipe from bursting. It's not that a small flow of water prevents freezing; this helps, but water can freeze even with a slow flow.

Rather, 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(s) open, since a pipe may have frozen and will still need pressure relief.

If You Suspect a Frozen Pipe

If you open a faucet and no water comes out, don't take any chances. Call a plumber. If a water pipe bursts, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve (usually at the water meter or where the main line enters the house); leave the faucet(s) open until repairs are completed. Don't try to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame; as this will damage the pipe and may even start a building fire. You might be able to thaw a pipe with a hand-held hair dryer. Slowly apply heat, starting close to the faucet end of the pipe, with the faucet open. Work toward the coldest section. Don't use electrical appliances while standing in water; you could get electrocuted.

Going on a Trip

When away from the house for an extended period during the winter, be careful how much you lower the heat. A lower temperature may save on the heating bill, but there could be a disaster if a cold spell strikes and pipes that normally would be safe, freeze and burst.

A solution is to drain the water system. This is the best safeguard. With no water in the pipes, there is no freezing. This remedy should be considered even when the homeowner is not leaving but is concerned about a serious overnight freeze.

To drain the system, shut off the main valve and turn on every water fixture (both hot and cold lines) until water stops running. It's not necessary to leave the fixtures open, since the system is filled mostly with air at that point and not subject to freezing. When returning to the house, turn on the main valve and let each fixture run until the pipes are full again.

Source: Institute for Business and Home Safety. IBHS is a national nonprofit initiative of the insurance industry to reduce deaths, injuries, property damage, economic losses and human suffering caused by natural disasters.

Heating Systems

Electric heating systems require no maintenance other than shutting off the power to the heating units. If you leave the heat on (recommended) be sure to leave at least a 6” clearance between the heaters ands any combustible materials.

Hot air heating systems:

1. Turn off burner emergency switch which is often located at the top of the stairs.
2. Drain humidifier which is usually located on the furnace.
3. Circulated hot water and steam systems: Drain all water in the system unless the system contains anti-freeze. It is wise to have this type of system drained by a plumber unless you are well- informed on the procedures necessary.

Winterize your summer home as you do your winter home. To help conserve energy when the home is not occupied, install a low-heat thermostat. By doing this your home could be maintained at about 40 degrees F. without a freeze-up, rather than at 55 Ft. which is the lowest temperature at which most thermostats can be set.

It is best to have some method of monitoring the temperatures in your home. You can install an alarm system and have the alarm company monitor the temperature for you. There are also many devices you can install to help you monitor the temperature yourself. Here are a couple of websites that sell devices that will monitor the temperatures in your home and contact you if you loose heat.



Washer and dishwasher

Water left in hoses and internal components can cause damage when it freezes. Shut off water supply to clothes washer. Remove and drain inlet hoses. Clear water valve by setting timer for fill cycle. Press warm water button and run machine a few seconds. Drain water from drain hose. Disconnect electrical supply.

For a dishwasher, remove inlet and outlet connection to the valve. Operate valve to remove any water. Remove drain hose from the pump and drain. Disconnect electrical supply.

It is also a good idea to clean the equipment and to protect the finish with a coat of appliance polish.

Stored Items

1. Remove food, cosmetics, or medicine containers that contain liquid that would freeze from shelves.
2. Food in paper or plastic containers should be put in large metal containers to protect from mice or other rodents.
3. Remove or hide articles in the house that can be sold and converted to cash such as guns, radios, TV sets, tools or other valuables.

Sewage system

1. Force as much water as possible out of traps with a plunger.
2. Add environmentally safe antifreeze to each trap so you have at least a 50% solution.
3. Check for traps in these locations: kitchen sinks, bathroom sinks, bathtub and/or shower drains, toilets, washtubs, floor drains and maybe a sump pump.

Keep out animals

1. Cover chimneys tightly so that raccoons cannot enter the house, or birds fall down the chimney.
2. Stop up any places in the foundation or around the eaves where squirrels, chipmunks, mice or other small animals can enter.

Have someone check your house

It is always best to have someone look after your home when you are gone. Possibly a neighbor can periodically check your home and notify you if anything is amiss.

Enjoy your home knowing that you have done everything you can to protect your home when you are gone.


Source: http://www.homeprony.com/xsites/Inspectors/homeprony/content/uploadedFiles/Winterizing%20your%20home.pdf