Thinking About Water Week April 12-18, 2015

Thinking About Water Week April 12-18, 2015

Thinking About Water Week April 12-18, 2015

Something interesting is happening in Washington, D.C., this week. April 12-18, 2015 has been designated Water Week. During Water Week, water and wastewater professionals from around the US gather to develop, consider and advocate for national policies that support safe, clean water for everyone in ways that also protect the environment.

Something interesting is also happening in northwestern Massachusetts. That area, which includes places like Adams and North Adams, Greenfield, Winchendon and Ashburnham was declared “abnormally dry” last week (April 7). That’s interesting because just one week earlier (March 31), only Adams and North Adams were considered to be “abnormally dry.” Two weeks ago, only North Adams was considered “abnormally dry” and as recently as St. Patrick’s Day, no portion of Massachusetts was experiencing any drought conditions. “Abnormally dry” is the mildest drought classification.

The abnormally dry conditions aren’t reserved for northwestern Massachusetts. Worcester – barely an hour’s drive from Boston – is the first major city in the state to have been declared “abnormally dry” this year. Drought conditions, which have grabbed the headlines in California in the past two weeks, can affect us locally, too. Prolonged drought conditions increase both the likelihood of wildfires, and the magnify the damage they can do.

Conserving treated water is one of the single most effective things we can do to improve our environment. The good news is that water conservation can be done very locally. Preserving and supporting our water table starts with making sure rainwater runoff can be returned to the ground effectively. That can be hard to do in population-dense cities like Boston, where much of the land surface is paved.

If you own property in Boston, you can start by building a rain garden – a place that can safely return rainwater runoff from your roof to the ground. Rain gardens can be decorative as well as functional, and can support a wide range of perennial and annual plants that don’t mind getting soggy. You can also install an underground cistern to capture and store rainwater runoff for use on your lawns and gardens. Cisterns can also be used to filter rainwater and return it slowly to the local water table.

If you don’t want to go that far, you can also store rainwater runoff from your roof in rain barrels, which you can use to water lawns and gardens during drier weather. When you capture and use rainwater, you can reduce your own water consumption, save money on your water bill, and more importantly, save treated water for those uses that actually require clean, drinkable water.

As always, check your water fixtures regularly for signs of leaking, and repair or replace faucets, hoses, connectors and pipes that don’t pass muster. If you would like more information about water collection, or capturing and reusing rainwater for lawn or garden maintenance, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We can also help you abate problems caused by overly damp or overly dry conditions inside of your home.

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Fix A Leak Week: Is Your Home Under Water?

Fix A Leak Week: Is Your Home Under Water?

Fix A Leak Week: Is Your Home Under Water?

This week is designated as “Fix a Leak Week” and is a good reminder to check your household fixtures for plumbing leaks. With this winter having been a hard one, a really good place to start your inspection is, of course, your outside spigots and lawn irrigation lines. If you didn’t remember to close and drain your hose connections, you could be looking at cracked or broken valves and water lines. Any major leak of this type is one you’ll want to fix immediately, because as the weather warms, you’ll run an increased risk of mold growth in indoor areas, and loss of performance and other damage in outdoor systems.

According to the EPA, water leaks in the average American household can waste more than 10,000 gallons of water each year. Nationally, the agency estimates that leaks consume more than a trillion gallons of water annually. That’s enough water to serve 11 million households. If you think this number sounds high, keep in mind that 10 percent of homes that have water leaks waste more than 90 gallons each day.

Sometimes it can be tough to confirm that you have a water leak. Dripping faucets and leaking connections are easy to see, but other fixtures like your toilets, showers and appliances may hide evidence of their sneaky water consumption. Use your water meter during a short period – say 2 hours – of “water inactivity” in your home to help you determine whether or not your fixtures are secretly consuming water.

You can test toilets for leaks by putting some food coloring in the toilet tank. If the colored water in the tank shows up in the bowl within 15 minutes, your toilet is leaking water. Most often, leaks from the toilet come from a failed or failing flapper valve. Alternately, the tank can fill too much when the toilet is flushed. If you dye your tank water and no colored water shows up in the tank within the test period, flush the toilet to clear out the colored water.

If your toilet doesn’t pass the colored water test, change the flapper valve at the bottom of the tank. This is very easy to do, and it’s a simple, cheap repair. If your toilet tank overfills, you can adjust the refill shut-off point by adjusting the refill valve. Usually, the optimal fill point is marked on the overflow tube in the tank. Try to adjust the refill to shut off at or near this point.

Dripping showers, faucets and connections are also signs of water leaks. Sometimes, simply tightening the connections around these fixtures can eliminate drips, but be careful not to overtighten the connections. Mineralization and debris from the water system can foul valves, making them difficult to close completely. Sometimes, just taking the valve apart and cleaning it or using Teflon tape around the connections can restore proper, drip-free operation.

If that doesn’t eliminate the drip in your faucet, you may need to replace a washer or ceramic disk. In some sealed faucets, these may not be replaceable. In this case, you’ll replace the entire faucet instead.

Outdoor irrigation systems can be a source of significant water waste. Even a very small leak or crack in an irrigation system hose can waste more than 6,000 gallons of water per month. It pays to inspect your outdoor watering system (or have a professional inspect it) every year before you begin outdoor watering.

If you have a major break in your water line or you know that you have a leak but just can’t find it, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating for immediate repair services. We offer true 24/7 emergency assistance for all of your plumbing, heating and cooling needs. Call us at (617) 288-2911 anytime. Don’t forget to like Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook, and enjoy a leak-free summer!

Photo Credit: budgetstoc

Outdoor Faucets: The One Thing You Should Never Forget To Do In Winter

Outdoor Faucets: The One Thing You Should Never Forget To Do In Winter

Outdoor Faucets: The One Thing You Should Never Forget To Do In Winter

If you own a home, chances are pretty good that you have at least one outdoor faucet. With outdoor faucets, it’s exceptionally important to remember to detach your garden hoses at the end of the season, close the inside shut-off valve(s) and drain the faucet fixture before it freezes.

Water expands when it freezes, and nothing changes that. How much does frozen water expand? Ice takes up nearly 10% more space than the same amount of liquid water does. Unfortunately, in the case of a water pipe, the pipe is already full when water is in a liquid state, so there’s no room for expansion if the temperature drops low enough for the water to freeze. Once the water in the pipe freezes, something’s got to give, and it’s usually the pipe itself, the valves, the joints or maybe even all three.

An outdoor water faucet is especially vulnerable to the cold, so it’s extremely important to prep your water faucets for the winter. The heat from your home that is transmitted through the pipes most likely won’t be enough to protect your outdoor faucet. Here’s what you can do to help prevent a watery disaster from striking in the middle of winter!

Close the shut-off valve for the faucet

From the inside of your home or building, close the shut-off valve that controls the flow of water to the outdoor faucet(s). If the valve isn’t set back from the outer wall of your home, an accidental freeze can damage your shut-off valve, making it impossible to stop the flow of water. If your shut-offs are very close to the outer wall of your home, consider moving them back farther into your home to better protect them from freezing.

Disconnect your hoses!

Leaving a frozen, water-filled hose attached to the outdoor faucet is asking for trouble! Disconnect your garden hoses, drain them and hang them up for the winter. Your hoses will last longer, be better protected from the elements, and will be less likely to leak at the connectors. They’ll also be less likely to develop splits that will leak when the hose is pressurized.

Drain the faucet

Finally, open the faucet and let any residual water drain out of the pipe. Draining the outside faucet is critical, because standing water between the inside shut-off valve and the outdoor faucet can freeze and break both the fixture and shut-off valve. Creating an air space within the short segment of pipe gives any residual water room to expand if it freezes.

If you’re not sure what to do, check out this short video, where we show you how to winterize your outdoor faucets:

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating – How to Winterize Your Outdoor Faucet

As an added measure of safety, insulate your pipes. Pipe insulation is inexpensive and can help protect your plumbing and valves from extreme temperature variations. Seal any open spaces, gaps or foundations cracks that can allow cold air to circulate around your pipes. Close all basement windows and foundation vents in the winter to prevent cold outside air from reducing the ambient temperature in unheated crawl spaces and basements.

Finally, be aware that sometimes pipes and fixtures that have frozen and thawed don’t start to leak until full water pressure is re-applied. In the spring, check your outdoor fixtures for leaks, even if you have taken steps to protect them from winter ice damage.

If you have a frost-damaged outdoor fixture, or need new shut-off valves installed for your outdoor faucets, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We can replace broken and leaking fixtures, move shut-off valves and help winterize outdoor plumbing.
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3 Things To Do When A Water Main Breaks

3 Things To Do When A Water Main Breaks

3 Things To Do When A Water Main Breaks

Last week, thanks to some unfortunate work by a contractor, some City residents were treated to an unusual site: a city main shooting water four stories into the air. Construction is certainly nothing new in Boston. Water main breaks are also common, but they’re usually a little more ordinary! So much so, in fact, that residents may not be aware of water main breaks that occur in their neighborhoods during the day or in the overnight hours.

The first sign of trouble from a broken water main is the appearance of sludge, silt, rust and debris in a home’s water lines. When this happens, homeowners are often unsure what to do, especially when they can’t find outward signs of plumbing damage in their homes.

Flush the pipes following a water main break

The easiest way to flush a home’s plumbing lines is to open a large tap while all other taps remain closed. The bathtub(s) in a home are ideal for this task. Open the cold water valve in the bathtub. Listen for hissing and spitting, a sign that air remains in the line. Run the water until it is clear, and no additional air bubbles are released.

The bathtub’s tap provides the ideal solution for water main-induced problems. The tub faucet is much larger than those that serve the sinks, so it can discharge debris particles in the water line without getting clogged. Debris clogs in lines with smaller faucets can cause problems that require expensive repairs. Debris can clog water lines to other fixtures like toilets and sinks, as well as to appliances, boilers and water heaters.

Occasionally, a piece of debris is the system is large enough to close off a water supply pipe completely. If you have no water at all, contact the Water and Sewer Commission to see whether they’ve shut off the water to your home as part of the repair process. If they believe the water is on, you may need to contact a plumber to help you locate and remove the blockage.

Check your insurance for water main break coverage

It’s also important to note that the City won’t pay to repair damage to a homeowner’s plumbing system, even if the damage occurred as a direct result of the water main break. Homeowners must repair damage and replace appliances themselves, and often, homeowner’s insurance won’t cover “clean water” damage unless you have a special policy rider. Check your current policy for this type of coverage now, and take action if your policy won’t pay for water main break damage.

Install a water main filtration system

One of the best ways to keep foreign debris out of your home’s plumbing system is to install a water main filtration system. This addition will help reduce sediment, sand and rust that comes from the municipal water supply. By keeping these contaminants out of your home’s plumbing, you can improve the water quality in your home and reduce the incidence of damage caused by these free-floating hazards.

If you would like more information about a water main filtration system for your home, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’d be happy to recommend and install a whole-house filtration system that will help keep your home’s water fresh and your plumbing and appliances safe from accidental damage.

Photo Credit: tijmen, via StockXChng

3 tips to find and eliminate plumbing leaks

3 tips to find and eliminate plumbing leaks

3 tips to find and eliminate plumbing leaks

You may not realize that you have a plumbing leak until you receive an unusually high water bill. When you think of plumbing leaks, you think of the unexpected flood that deposits a lot of water on your floor or damages your walls. In reality, a lot of plumbing leaks aren’t actually detected by the homeowner. Sometimes, you can determine whether a leak is present, but finding the damage might require more detective work!

Finding a plumbing leak. Plumbing leaks can be stealthy. One good way to determine whether you have a leak is to turn off all of the supply-side water valves in your home. You should have a supply-side shutoff valve at each water-using fixture. It’s good to test these valves once in awhile anyway, so this exercise may help you kill two birds with one stone. Once all of the fixture valves have been closed, check the water meter. If the meter is still running, you may have a leak. During this test, if you find a shut-off valve that is stuck or broken, replace it.

If you do find that your system is still drawing water, you’ll need test each segment of the system to find out which one is affected. This can be time-consuming, but it’s the best way to locate the source of a leak.

Testing your water pressure. Don’t skip this step in the hunt for leaks! You need to know what the water pressure is in your system. Here’s why:

The municipality needs to pump water at a high pressure to ensure that water is delivered correctly and safely to homes and businesses. Often, however, the pressure in the municipal supply is about three to four times higher than what residential systems are designed to operate at! Residential plumbing components aren’t designed to take high pressure for long periods of time, and will wear out early and often! Once a component begins to fail, a leak is the natural result.

You can buy an inexpensive in-line water pressure gauge at your local hardware store that can measure the water pressure at a faucet. If your water pressure is significantly higher than 55 PSI, a regulating valve located near the meter will help ensure that your system maintains a correct and safe water pressure. These regulating valves are adjustable, so if you find that 55 PSI doesn’t meet your needs, you can turn the pressure up.

Check your appliances. Don’t automatically assume that the valves in your water-using appliances are in good working order. They’re under the same pressure that the rest of your system is. Check the valves of your laundry, refrigeration and dishwashing equipment regularly for leaks and deterioration around the seals. Inspect the hoses and replace them every five years. These valves and hoses are inexpensive and are readily available from appliance repair stores.

If you need help with locating a leak in your plumbing, testing your water pressure or installing a regulating valve on your plumbing system, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to test your system, locate hidden leaks and help you protect your water-using appliances.

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Photo Credit: LaDeon, via StockXchng

Boston Standard Helps Turn On The Water At The Berkeley Community Garden

Boston Standard Helps Turn On The Water At The Berkeley Community Garden

Boston Standard Helps Turn On The Water At The Berkeley Community Garden

The Berkeley Community Garden (BCG) at the corner of East Berkeley and Tremont in Boston’s South End provides gardening space during the summer months for seniors and low-income families in the area. In mid-March, the plumbing system for the gardens was vandalized. Thieves stole 21 of 22 watering stations, most likely for their scrap value. The stolen fittings didn’t contain much copper, but their loss meant that the garden would not have a working watering system.

Vandalized watering stations at the Berkeley Community Garden. Photo: John McLachlan

Vandalized watering stations at the Berkeley Community Garden. Photo: John McLachlan

The thefts were covered well in the Boston media and we at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating saw an opportunity to help! We reached out to Ann McQueen, who sits on the Board of Directors of the Boston Natural Areas Network, which the Berkeley Community Garden is part of. Ann let us know that the water lines in the garden would need to be replaced to return the garden to operating condition for the spring.

Once we knew what had to be done, we turned to Tom Blades at FW Webb, Boston’s largest heating, cooling and plumbing supplier, and they donated the materials we needed to repair the vandalism to the BCG’s water lines. We installed new pipe and watering stations, and the garden was back in business! Or so we thought…

BCG gardeners ready to get to work! Photo: Jeremy Dick, BNAN

BCG gardeners ready to get to work! Photo: Jeremy Dick, BNAN

The weekend after we installed the new taps, the thieves returned and removed eight stations from the garden. Because the BCG is such a valuable community resource, we have requested a meeting with the Plumbing Board to seek a variance to use plastic piping in the garden, to make the water lines unattractive to thieves and to preserve the BCG as a great local resource.

We’ve posted items about copper theft in Boston the past, but copper remains a very attractive target for thieves. As plumbing, heating and cooling professionals, we’ve seen many copper installations – both commercial and residential – that have been vandalized by scrap metal thieves. It’s natural for thieves to target unoccupied homes and buildings looking for copper, but we’ve also heard reports of thieves stealing the plumbing out of occupied homes!

We’ll keep the blog updated on our request to the Plumbing Board, and on the state of repairs at the Boston Community Garden.

If you need help getting your outdoor plumbing ready for the summer, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911, and we’ll be happy to help you get your own garden in order! Visit us online, and like Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook!

Photo Credits: Jeremy Dick, Boston Natural Areas Network , John McLachlan, Craig Dietrich, via Flickr

World Plumbing Day: A Time To Think

World Plumbing Day: A Time To Think

World Plumbing Day: A Time To Think

World Plumbing Day – March 11 – is just about a month away, and although it may seem like an odd celebration, it offers us an opportunity to think about something we don’t usually spend a lot of time on: clean water and sanitation. In Boston, plumbing is something we take for granted. Every house has it; every commercial building has it. But there are a lot of places in the world where clean water and sanitation aren’t readily available.

More than 3 million people each year die as the result of preventable diseases and conditions related to inferior water quality and poor sanitation. The majority of deaths occur in children under five years of age. By itself, that’s a lot to think about – especially when you consider that you can go to just about any tap that’s connected to a municipal water supply, and get safe, clean, drinkable water from it 24/7/365, year after year in this country.

Despite our access to clean water and sanitation, water-borne illnesses can still affect us. Relatively recent outbreaks of the SARS virus and Legionnaires’ Disease come to mind as proof that improper plumbing and air-handling can serve as a breeding ground for major threats to public health.

Aside from thinking about the role of clean water and sanitation, it’s also good to think about the role that plumbers play in modern society. Plumbing may not seem like a glamorous job, and it’s not. But according to the World Health Organization, competent plumbers are responsible for a lot:

  • Installing and maintaining safe water distribution and sanitation systems
  • Managing the risks associated with plumbing and sanitation systems
  • Water conservation
  • Plumbing is a trade, but it’s one that evolves over time. In some cases, modern plumbing codes are responses to changes in the way people live, the applications of new technologies and materials, and our impact on the areas in which we live. In other cases, plumbing codes are the products of the knowledge and experience plumbers gain when they handle both clean and dirty water. In still other cases, our plumbing reflects what we’ve learned about diseases, and how they spread in urban areas.

    So, as World Plumbing Day approaches, spend some time thinking about the role of clean water and sanitation, and how much of a difference it makes in the lives of the 7 billion people we share our planet with.

    If you have any questions or concerns about your plumbing, heating or cooling systems, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We’re always available to help! Friend Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook and don’t forget to celebrate World Plumbing Day on March 11.

    Photo Credit: Julien Harneis, via Flickr

    Consider Installing a Frost-free Hose Bibb In Your Boston Home

    Consider Installing a Frost-free Hose Bibb In Your Boston Home

    Consider Installing a Frost-free Hose Bibb In Your Boston Home

    With the weather warming up, I’ve got the great outdoors on my mind. One project that is relatively easy to complete and will help prevent damage to your home is the addition of frost-free hose bibbs to your plumbing. Boston homeowners who have dealt with frozen hose bibbs, or worse – the damage they leave behind – can attest to the utility of having frost-free hose bibbs.

    A frost-free hose bibb operates like an ordinary hose bibb does. You attach a hose to a standard threaded connector, and open and close the valve with a simple twist. The design of the frost-free hose bibb is what gives this addition its value. The frost-free hose bibb helps prevent pipe damage that can be caused when standing water freezes in-line. Often, homeowners don’t find this kind of damage until they try to use a hose and get a stream of water in the basement instead.

    In new construction, frost-free hose connections are all but mandatory. In older homes, however, frost or freeze damage to the outside faucets is a real danger, and homeowners can benefit from this addition. Frost-free faucets have a long stem that extends into the home and connects to a shutoff. Once the water supply is shut off, the water that remains in the stem can drain away, leaving the stem empty and free from frost danger. The shutoff valve is located deep enough in the home to eliminate the danger of freezing in the supply pipe.

    One word of caution: once your frost-free hose bibbs are installed, be sure to disconnect your hoses and drain the faucets prior to the beginning of the frost season. An attached hose will prevent the faucet from draining properly and you might end up with another damaged outdoor faucet.

    To install a frost-free hose bibb, you’ll need a frost-free hose bibb and some common plumbing tools like a pipe cutter, and brazing equipment to make the new joints. If you would like to add frost-free hose bibbs to your home but don’t have the equipment, skill or experience, the plumbing professionals at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating can help. We’ll add frost-free hose bibbs to your outdoor plumbing setup and show you how to maintain them correctly and enjoy years of trouble-free use. If you’d like more information about adding a frost-free hose bibb to your home, call us at (617) 288-2911 and we’ll schedule a visit!
    Next week, I’ll discuss adding hot water to your outdoor faucets.

    Photo Credit: rachaelvoorhees, via Flickr

    Sprinkler Systems Need Maintenance Too!

    Sprinkler Systems Need Maintenance Too!

    Sprinkler Systems Need Maintenance Too!

    If you’re considering installing a sprinkler system for your Boston home this spring, you should take into account the maintenance that will be required. Sprinkler maintenance isn’t hard, but if it’s not done correctly and consistently, you’ll be replacing major components of your sprinkler system each spring.

    The main maintenance task associated with a sprinkler system is draining and drying out the system each fall prior to the start of the frost season. Sprinkler hoses aren’t buried very deep, so they’ll be frozen each winter. If the sprinkler system is drained and dried as required, this won’t cause any particular problems for you.

    On the other hand, if the system is not drained or dried prior to the onset of frost, you’ll end up with cracked hoses, broken fittings and broken sprinkler heads. When your sprinkler system is installed, it should come with a drain valve or similar fitting that will allow you to connect a compressor to the system. The compressor will provide pressurized air that will blow out any remaining water in the system. Each sprinkler zone will also be outfitted with an anti-siphoning device. The compressor and the anti-siphoning devices will work together to ensure that all parts of the system are dried appropriately, and that no water remains in the system.

    Sometimes, homeowners elect not to have drain valves installed at the time the system is installed. If this describes your system, you’ll need to make plans to drain your system almost immediately. You can install either manual or automatic drain valves. If your system uses a manual drain valve, you’ll shut the water supply to the sprinkler system off, then open the manual drain valves to empty out the standing water. You may need to leave the valves open for a few days to ensure that all of the standing water is removed. Don’t forget to drain the main lead that connects the sprinkler system to your house supply.

    If your system uses automatic valves, the system will drain whenever there’s a loss of water pressure, such as when the main valve is shut down. The system drains when it is not being used and fills again when it is needed. Your system probably has automatic valves if the water doesn’t immediately flow out of the sprinkler system when you turn it on.

    Don’t assume that an automatic valve setup will have you covered for the winter. Automatic valves can deteriorate or become stuck, leaving you with a pipe full of water and the potential for a damaged sprinkler system in the spring.

    If you’re really fastidious about protecting your sprinkler system, you can remove the zone valves each fall and store them inside. This will guarantee that you won’t have any broken valves, but it’s time consuming.

    If you need assistance with adding or replacing sprinkler valves or the main lead to your sprinkler system, Boston Standard Plumbing can help out. Boston Standard Plumbing was named the Best of Boston 2010 for our excellent service for all heating, cooling and plumbing needs. Call us at (627) 288-2911 today!

    Photo Credit: Paul Heaberlin, via Flickr

    Avoiding Frozen Pipes In The Winter

    Avoiding Frozen Pipes In The Winter

    Avoiding Frozen Pipes In The Winter

    All Boston homeowners worry about the possibility of frozen pipes in the winter and with good reason. Frozen pipes can lead to expensive plumbing repairs, property damage, and other disasters like mold growth. Ice in a residential plumbing pipe can exert more than 2,000 psi of pressure. Your pipes aren’t designed to handle this kind of force, and they will burst. There are a few things you can do to keep your pipes in good shape in the winter, no matter how low the outside temperature may go!

    First, keeping pipes thawed relies on heat. If you plan to leave your home for any length of time (even during the day while you work) do not set your thermostat lower than 62°F. Your home’s plumbing is often found encased in walls, unheated crawl spaces or in the basement of your home. Some of the heat from the living spaces and duct work in your home will help to keep these areas warm, but this type of heat will only go so far. The warmer your living space is, the warmer the unheated areas of your home will stay and the less likely you are to experience a frozen or burst pipe.

    Insulate the pipes in your home. This will help keep the pipes warmer and will also help prevent radiant heat loss along your hot water pipes. Pipes in and near outside walls and crawlspaces are the most likely candidates for freezing so be sure to keep these as warm as possible.

    Be very careful about the pipes that enter the home from outside. This would include your main water line and any outdoor spigots you may use for gardening or home maintenance. A shutoff valve should protect your outdoor taps. Every fall, close this shutoff valve and drain any standing water out of the outdoor taps. Remove any garden hoses and store them for the winter. Also drain any standing water from your sprinkler system, if one is installed. This will protect these systems from expansion damage that standing water could otherwise cause.

    If you use rain barrels, dry wells or other rainwater run off collectors, drain these for the winter. Clean your gutters, too! This isn’t strictly a plumbing tip, but plugged gutters will cause backups in the downspouts and severe icing along your eaves, which can force water into your home.

    If a pipe in your home has frozen but has not yet burst, you can thaw it out. Do not use any type of open flame (such as a torch) to melt the ice. This creates a high risk of fire, as well as a high risk of personal injury. Open the tap and locate the frozen area. This area may be frosted over on the outside due to condensation. The pipe may also be deformed in the critical spot. Heat the pipe from the tap back toward the frozen spot. You want to clear out the pipe, and if you start from the frozen point, the newly melted water may have nowhere to go.

    You can heat exposed pipes using a hair dryer, an incandescent or infrared light, or a space heater. Use foil, a cookie sheet or rolled aluminum behind the pipe to reflect heat evenly around the pipe. You can also use “heat tape” to help warm up the pipes. If your frozen piping is below a sink, open the doors to the base cabinet and circulate warmer air around the pipes.

    If your pipe is unexposed, you may need to remove drywall or plaster to expose the pipe. If you don’t want to do that, turn up the heat in the home and wait or use an infrared heat source to help warm the hidden pipes. If the pipe bursts while you’re trying to thaw it (a real possibility), turn off the water at the main shutoff immediately. At this point, you will have to expose the pipe to repair the damage and dry up the water.

    If you think you may have frozen pipes or your pipes are in danger of freezing, you can call Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911. We offer emergency plumbing services and can help you assess the condition of your plumbing, turn off the water, thaw pipes and make any needed repairs.

    Photo Credit: Justin Young, via Flickr