Most of us worry about the dangers of snow in the winter, but what about freezing?  The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety says a frozen pipe that bursts can cause more than $5,000 in water damage. “We see about 2,200 claims per day during an average January winter,” says Chris Zimmer, senior vice president of Claims Field Operations for Erie Insurance. “Many of them are due to frozen water pipes.” With the temperatures dropping, our Risk Control team put together some quick tips for your home and your business. 

For Your Home

With the temperature in the single digits, it’s important to prevent frozen household pipes. Frozen pipes are a problem by themselves because they prevent water flow, but even worse, frozen pipes can eventually burst, causing damage and potential flooding. Here are some steps to prevent this problem from occurring when the temperatures drop:

1. Add extra insulation. Protect your home by wrapping exposed pipes with insulation and eliminate sources of cold air near any waterlines. Pipes that are located in areas that do not have proper insulation, such as basements or attics, may need extra insulation to keep them from freezing.

2. Allow a small trickle of water to run overnight. The cost of the water is minimal compared to repairing the damage from bursting pipes.

3. Keep the heat on. If you plan to travel or leave for period of time, make sure that the heat is kept on your property. The heat does not have to be kept as high as you normally would keep it but setting it above 50 degrees is a good idea.

4. Keep interior doors open. Pipes are often located in cabinets. When the temperature drops, it is a good idea to keep these cabinet doors open so that the heat from the rest of the house can keep the pipes warm as well.

If your pipes do freeze, shut off water immediately at your home’s main shut off. Do not attempt to thaw frozen pipes unless the water is shut off. To thaw pipes, apply heat from a hair dryer, space heater, or hot water. DO NOT USE a torch or open flame.

For Your Business

Too many businesses find themselves unprepared when normal winter weather suddenly turns extreme. During a severe cold spell, sprinkler or water pipes can freeze, burst, and produce devastating losses. Water damage from this type of incident, known as a freeze-up, can affect products in storage, paperwork, records, furniture, machinery, computers, and all types of electronic equipment. Any equipment that contains or uses water, produces condensate or depends on pneumatic controls is vulnerable to freezing. Here are some steps to prevent this problem from occurring when the temperatures drop:

1. Drain the water from wet pipe sprinklers. If this is not done, ice plugs can obstruct the piping or possibly damage fittings and sprinklers.

2. Pay particular attention to attics, under floor spaces and entries that might not have adequate heating ducts. Make sure you provide heat to these areas on the coldest days/nights. 

3. Open any on-site fire hydrants and allow water to flow. This measure flushes any debris from the underground main and exercises the hydrant value. 

4. Inspect the building shell to minimize unnecessary openings. Fix windows and doors so they close tightly, as well as close and seal unneeded dampers, louvers, and vents.

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