Cold temps reinforce need for winter preparation

12/12/2012

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Monday morning's near-zero temperatures may have provided a jolt for those procrastinators out there who have put off making sure their homes, apartments and cars are ready for winter weather.

Bob Kreutzer, co-owner of Tatro Plumbing, said the business did receive some calls about frozen pipes this week, which is a huge headache, both for the resident and for the plumber.

"If it is frozen and broken, when we thaw it out then there's lots of water, which means lots of mud, and it's very cold. And generally, the conditions that allowed something to freeze still exist, so the probability is it will happen again," he said.

To avoid what could be an expensive repair, prevention is key. Kreutzer said one of the best ways to prevent frozen water pipes is to make sure the home is well insulated against drafts where the pipes may be located.

"You want to do anything you can do to seal all the cracks and spaces to keep air from getting through," he said. "Temperature is very bad, but wind on top of temperature just kills you."

Wind chill is especially trouble for mobile homes because the skirting that encircles the home is not windproof. Kreutzer highly recommends putting additional insulation behind the skirting all the way around the trailer to create more of a buffer against the wind.

Other prevention recommendations include opening cabinet doors below sinks to let the home's furnace move warm air across the pipes and opening taps to let a trickle of cold water move through the pipes because moving water won't freeze.

"The idea is good," he said.

If the worst does happen and a pipe freezes, Kreutzer recommends using a hair dryer to try to thaw it out before calling a plumber. Above all, he said, no one should use any kind of open flame to try to thaw the pipe.

In addition to plumbing, people should have a service technician check the furnace each year and change batteries in the carbon monoxide detector if they have one, according to Fire Marshall Dan Wimmer with the Garden City Fire Department.

While a carbon monoxide detector isn't required, it's a good idea to have one in your home or apartment, he said.

"It doesn't take a lot to prepare, but there's some people that don't. I imagine they've already got their furnaces running by now, but it doesn't hurt to have them checked," he said.

Other fire department tips involve space heaters. Wimmer said people should not use an extension cord with portable heaters, leave at least three feet of open space around them when in use and don't leave them unattended.

Also, people should never use an oven for heat.

"That's a no-no," Wimmer said.

In addition to homes, vehicles also should be winterized. According to AAA, some tips for getting a car ready for winter include checking battery terminals are tight and clean, the radiator's coolant level and strength with a hydrometer, inspecting belts and hoses for cracks, checking windshield wiper blades and making sure wiper fluid is full, and topping off oil and other engine fluids. People also should check tires for wear and proper pressure and ensure lights and signals work.

In addition, AAA offers suggestions for maintaining a winter survival kit in case a person becomes stranded in a vehicle during bad winter weather. Some items suggested for the kit include an ice scraper; tools and flashlight; tire traction material, such as sand or cat litter; food and blanket; jumper cables; first aid kit; flares or reflective triangle, and a shovel.

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