Don't rely on global warming to keep your pipes clear
In the world of arm-chair meteorology there is much controversy about global climate change. “It's happening” say some, “it's not” say others. “It's severe” hollers one group, “not so bad” screams another. Everyone has an opinion and all claim that theirs is backed up by facts.
Well, I'm just a hardware guy and I am comfortable telling you that I know nothing about climate change. But I'm beginning to think that there are those who believe that the warming of the planet has occurred so dramatically that water, when exposed to the elements, will no longer freeze.
Last month, when daytime temperatures peaked in the single digits, customers poured into my store to buy heat cables and pipe wrap to remedy miles of frozen water lines. Don't get me wrong, I'm always happy to sell product and pleased to have what my customers need. But I couldn't help but think of how many of those water lines could have remained unfrozen had my dear customers just assumed that they would freeze come winter. Instead, they bet on warm temperatures and lost.
As a result, they had water damage, water outages and a great deal of extra work to do at a time when nobody wants to do it.
Water pipes, whether they are copper, plastic or steel, need to be protected prior to the onset of freezing temperatures. Heat cables are designed as a way to prevent freezing, not as a tool to thaw pipes. In the same way, pipe wrap and insulation should be installed in the warm seasons to keep both the ambient temperature of the water and the line contained, as well as keeping the cold off the pipe.
It's critical to understand also that frost-free outdoor spigots are not foolproof. Garden hoses should always be disconnected and it's important to plug the hole where a frost-free stem or any water line exits the house. When the temperatures really take a dive, cold air sinks into every crack and crevice, often times chasing its way back the pipes and causing a freeze inside a home.
Chances are if you made it through the arctic temperatures of January 2018 without a frozen pipe, you are pretty safe. But maybe you were just lucky.
Remember, it pays to be proactive. So when the warm spring days arrive, think back to January, go find any potential area where frozen pipes could occur and take precautions. Address them early because no matter what position you hold on global warming, the fact is that water will always freeze at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Even a hardware guy knows that.
Ed Pfeifer is the owner of Pfeifer Hardware Inc., 300 Marshall Way, Mars. If you have questions, call the store at 724-625-9090.