Dear Customers and Friends –
The next few days will bring frigid temperatures that the Chicago area has not seen in decades. Simply put, not much we own is engineered to handle these extremes. Here is some advice of how to increase your odds of avoiding trouble, especially frozen pipes. These are all simple and easy to do.
1. Know where your water main shut off is. In the likelihood a pipe breaks and you need to get to it quickly, make sure you know where it is and that the path to it is not blocked. Test the shutoff handle or knob to make sure it is not stuck from lack of use. The water main shutoff is usually in the front of the house because the main water main is in the street. The water main shutoff is right by the water meter.
2. Any interior water pipes near an outside wall are at risk because of the extreme cold. The best and easiest thing to do is to make sure air can circulate around the pipes. This is usually as simple as keeping cabinet doors under a kitchen or bathroom sink open.
3. If you are still worried a pipe may freeze run the water in the faucet connected by the pipe in question. Run at a very low rate, above a drip BUT, run both hot and cold.
4. Some of you have third floor bathrooms or attic HVAC units. Your HVAC unit probably has a humidifier, which means it has a water pipe and this pipe can freeze. Some may have a steam generator for a steam shower mounted in the attic. Again, make sure, there is enough heat up there and that the heat is keeping up against the battle with the cold and that air can circulate around and within these areas. These areas are insulated but the worst thing that can happen to a house is to have an attic or third floor pipe break, sending water all the way down to basement. Again air circulation is key. If air can circulate, you should not have a problem. DO NOT OVER HEAT YOUR ATTIC THOUGH. This can exacerbate ice dams (see #6 below). A constant 45 degrees is fine for unfinished attics.
5. High efficiency HVAC emission pipes can get blocked by condensation or high snow. You know you have a high efficient HVAC unit if the emission pipes come out an exterior wall and not through a chimney in your roof. In cold weather you will see white smoke, which is actually mostly steam. These emission pipes can become blocked for two reasons. First, with the acute cold, the steam exiting the pipe can become instantly frozen and block the pipe. Second, high snow can also block it. Your HVAC units are a built in safety feature that if emissions cannot exit the unit, the unit will shut down. Thankfully the solution to this problem is to go outside and clear the pipe.
6. Lastly, ice dams. These are inescapable and can be a big problem. They occur on all houses. Melted snow water can travel backwards sometimes 20’ up the slope of your roof and then leak inside. This is the hardest problem to solve. This will probably not occur until the weather begins warming up. The solution is to have a roofing company come with a snow rake and clear the roof of snow. Do not do this yourself.
While we do not provide emergency service we more than willing to offer guidance should it become necessary.