Freezing Pipes & safety issues



Most people aren’t necessarily ready for winter to hit just yet, but arctic air that is associated with what we now call the “Polar Vortex” will move into the Central United States early into next week, and will then make its way down into the southern and eastern regions of the U.S. This cold air is expected to affect about 200 million people as it makes its way throughout the states and progresses into a potentially larger storm.

So what is a polar vortex? If you don’t remember, this phenomenon is categorized as a part of the coldest air present in the Northern Hemisphere which sits over the polar region. Sometimes this frigid air can become dislodged and travel more to the South than it normally would, causing cold outbreaks in Canada and the United States.

This will be the coldest weather of the season so far, and it will  continue on into the middle of the month.

Want to prevent frozen pipes? Here’s how

When outdoor temperatures drop and cold winds blow, your water pipes are in danger. Inclement conditions can cause them to freeze. Or rather, the water inside will freeze, expanding as it does so. The ice thus formed acts as a plug. It blocks the pipe and causes pressure to build up between the frozen section and the closed faucet further downstream. This pressure, not the freezing itself, may cause the pipes to burst eventually, creating one heck of a mess in your home. The good news is that frozen and burst pipes can be prevented, with a bit of simple maintenance.


Safeguard pipes against freezing by protecting them from cold, windy conditions, ideally before winter begins. Start with insulation. Insulate large areas which pipes pass through, such as crawl spaces, by using foam board and filling in with fiberglass. Insulation sleeves to cover the pipes are a very effective localized solution, but should not be used for any pipe that runs adjacent to an uninsulated exterior wall — they will block indoor heating as well as the cold outside air.

Apply temporary seals to your foundation vents and air inlets. Seal any cracks and holes with caulk.


Never leave a garden hose connected to your outdoor faucet when winter is near. Disconnect the water supply to your swimming pool and other outdoor pipes and then turn on the faucets to drain water. (Be sure to turn them off when the process is finished.) Cover any outdoor spigots and winterize your sprinkler system.


Keeping pipes warm minimizes the likelihood of a freeze. Maintain a home temperature of at least 55 degrees F, even if no one is home. When you are planning to be away for an extended period, drain your water system to stay safe in case of a cold snap.

Alternatively, use a space heater near the pipes to keep the water at a temperature above freezing. Another option is electric heating tape or cables, preferably with a self-regulating thermostat. These three methods should be used with care, as there is a possibility they may cause a house fire.

Plumbing pipes on an uninsulated exterior wall can be warmed by opening the bathroom vanity and kitchen cabinets in the room. This will direct heat from your bathroom or kitchen toward the pipes.

Keep your garage doors closed when not in use to minimize cold air flow. This is especially important when the water supply lines are located in the garage.


At times of extreme cold or when you will be away from home for an extended period in winter, the two best solutions may seem contradictory. The first method is to drain the water completely from the pipes leaving no liquid in the pipes to freeze. To accomplish this, turn off the main valve, and then turn on all the taps in your home. Allow the water remaining in the pipes to run out. When you’re ready to reverse the process, turn on the valve and open the faucets, allowing the pipes to refill.

The second way is to let a small amount of water drip continually from the tap. You will relieve pressure buildup — and therefore, a potential burst — in the case that the pipes become frozen; the hot and cold water lines should both be left open slightly. To avoid wastage, you may want to collect the clean water from either method and use it to fill your coffee maker or water houseplants.

Be Prepared

Before you are faced with an emergency, check your homeowner’s insurance to see whether it covers damage caused by burst pipes, since different policies offer different options. Consider installing leak alarms that will detect abnormal levels of moisture in the air of your home. These may be either basic battery-operated devices or part of a smart-house system that is controlled via your phone. Finally, in case all your prevention is in vain, purchase a temporary patch kit as a quick fix for burst pipes until you can reach a qualified plumber.

Having an emergency supply kit packed and at the ready can make a difficult situation more bearable. It might even save your life. There are some very good kits on the market, usually sold complete with their own handy backpack. If you prefer, you can make your own to save money and customize the contents to suit your family’s needs. Here’s a list of suggested contents.

1. Water. Water is even more essential than food for human survival. Estimate one-half gallon (64 ounces) per person per day of drinking water, plus an equal amount for hygienic purposes, if feasible. A water filtration kit is also advisable.

2. Food. Count on having at least a three-day supply of non-perishable, nutritious food that requires minimal prep. Avoid glass containers, which may be shattered by extreme weather. Opt for pop-top cans so you don’t need a can opener. Recommended: granola bars, nut butters, dried fruit, water-packed fish (the oily type makes a mess), infant formula and bottles if appropriate, canned goods (other packaged foods may be contaminated by floodwaters).

3. Multivitamins. Vitamin tablets are an easy way to compensate for a less-than-ideal diet. Be sure to include any nutritional supplements recommended by your health practitioner, such as Vitamin B.

4. Light. A fully charged portable LED lamp plus extra batteries can not only make you more comfortable, it may be used to signal for help.

5. First Aid Kit. In addition to stocking your kit in advance with basics such as bandages and disinfectant, consider further preparation by taking a first aid course.

6. Blankets and Warm Clothing. Have an emergency blanket or waterproof sleeping bag plus warm clothing for each family member. (If you have growing children, make sure that the clothes fit their current size.) A tarp and rain ponchos are useful, if space permits.

7. Tools. A wrench or pliers to turn off your home’s supply of gas or water can help prevent further disaster, as can a fire extinguisher. Other handy tools: a small knife, a length of rope, smokeless fire gel, and a supply of fire starter sticks.

8. Dust Mask. If the air is extremely dusty of contaminated, a dust mask will help you breathe.

9. Radio. Keep a battery-powered radio, with extra batteries, close at hand so that you can hear up-to-date weather bulletins and emergency instructions from the local authorities.

10. Medical and Sanitary Supplies. A 7-day supply of prescription medication is vital, while your extra pair of glasses, disposable diapers, feminine hygiene supplies, moist towelettes and disinfectant will make your situation a great deal more tolerable, especially if a hurricane hits the central East Coast and knocks out your Baltimore plumbing.

11. Documents. Make up a small folder to comprise family contact information and copies of important documents (instructions regarding allergies and other urgent medical info, insurance policies, birth certificates and passports). Keep additional copies of these documents in secure online storage as well, in case the physical versions are lost or destroyed.

12. Cash. Stash bills in a watertight container.

13. Keys. An extra set of keys to the car and your home may be a sanity saver if the originals are lost.

14. Children’s treats and activities. Children will naturally be tense and frightened. Having simple activities such as a board game or coloring book on hand will help them to relax, as will a few treats like mini boxes of raisins.

15. Pet food and supplies. Don’t forget about your furry or feathered friends.

**Also, keep these important things in mind to keep your family safe and your fireplace operating efficiently. More information about gas fireplace safety is available on our website.

We love our gas fireplaces. In addition to being centerpieces of ambiance, they warm our toes and our hearts too. But it’s important to remember that one of their central functions is to produce heat with fire, so safety is of utmost importance.

Safety Screens
All gas fireplaces should have a protective screen over the glass. Screens reduce risks of serious burns by creating a barrier that prevents skin from coming into direct contact with the hot glass. Keep in mind, however, that screens can also retain heat, so touching them isn’t advised. All of our Heatilator gas fireplaces, and inserts are outfitted with factory-provided protective safety screens.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, poisonous gas that can be deadly. For safety reasons, every home should have at least one CO detector located in rooms near gas appliances, including fireplaces. On a related note, your home should also have smoke detectors. Be sure to check and replace the batteries or they won’t work!

Annual Inspections
Have a licensed gas technician or hearth dealer inspect your gas fireplace annually. He or she will check the gas lines, clean the burner and control compartment, and check for condensation. This is an important yearly appointment that shouldn’t be delayed.

Direct Vent
When choosing a gas fireplace, opt for a direct vented model. They have sealed combustion systems protect indoor air quality by drawing air from outside the home for the fire, while expelling 100 percent of combustion exhaust and by-products outside the home. In contrast, unvented gas fireplaces (a.k.a. vent-free or ventless) are open systems that compromise indoor air quality by drawing oxygen for the fire from inside the home, while expelling exhaust, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and moisture) into the home.

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