Cold snap creates high risk for frozen pipes

Reported by: Ashley Cullins
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Updated: 12/04/2013 5:51 pm
RENO, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- With temperatures not rising above freezing for several days this week, it's high-risk weather for pipes to burst.

From indoor plumbing to outdoor irrigation, these below-freezing temperatures could cause expensive damage.

So News 4 talked to the experts about how you can prepare your home for the freeze.

"[The] first freeze of the winter just exposes all the things that didn't get taken care of," said Jim Walker, owner of Jet Plumbing.
 
Walker said they'll get dozens to hundreds of calls about frozen pipes on a cold week like this one, because a little water can cause a lot of damage if it freezes. 

"It's going to expand and it will break the pipe," Walker said.

If you make it through this first freeze, Truckee Meadows Water Authority Customer Services Manager Andy Gebhardt said you're not necessarily in the clear. 

"You think 'oh it's already froze, maybe it's not going to freeze,'" he said. "We're surprised every year, second and third storms, something finally breaks."

Gebhardt said outdoor irrigation causes a majority of the problems.

"Unhooking your hoses from the hose bibs that's a big one," he said.

"Sprinkler lines outside that aren't winterized are susceptible to freezing pretty quickly," Walker said.

It can happen any time temperatures are below freezing if you're not prepared. 

"Mother nature will win and you'll start breaking pipes," said Chad Piekarz, energy consultant for NV Energy. "'Cause it just gets that cold under the home or in the walls."

Piekarz said you can lower the risk by programming your thermostat.

"[A} 10 degree swing between 58 and 68 is considered perfect for our climate," he said.

Any higher than 68 degrees can drastically increase your bill, and lower than 58 degrees puts your pipes at risk, which Walker said can cost anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars if flooding causes damage. 

Running a little water is a cheap form of prevention. 

"Just a drip usually takes care of it," Walker said. "It doesn't need to be a steady stream or anything like that. It'll keep it moving through it and doesn't let it have a chance to build up and freeze."
 
In case you do have a burst, know your emergency plan. 

"Keep a plumber's number handy," Gebhardt said. "Know how to isolate your home. Know where your shut-off valve is. The time to find your shut-off valve is not when you need your shut-off valve."

Gebhardt said if you live in a rental you should ask your property manager or landlord if your unit has its own valve and where it is.
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