Tips for beating the cold temperatures!

The most unpleasant part of winter has got to be the ultra-cold temperatures that rush in from the Arctic. If you’re going to do battle with an Alberta Clipper, you’re going to have to be prepared. Here are a few tips for beating the cold, no matter where you are.

Protecting yourself from cold temperatures

The best way to beat the cold is to employ two strategies – one designed to keep yourself warm, and the other to keep your home safe!

Let’s tackle personal comfort, first.

Keep moving. Keeping your body moving is the best way to maintain your personal comfort. Moving regularly will help you avoid the aching joints and muscles that always seem to accompany Arctic air.

Layer your clothes. Keeping your core warm – that is, your head, chest and abdomen – will coax your body into maintaining good blood flow to your extremities. Your body’s first priority is to keep its internal organs warm, so it will naturally reduce blood flow to your extremities if it’s having trouble minding the store. Keeping your core warm with layers of clothes will make it easier to maintain proper circulation throughout your body. Even if it means wearing a jacket, vest, hat or sweater inside, keeping your core warm will benefit your entire body.

Wear wool and down. Wool and down are traditional winter wear, but they have a special property that other materials don’t have. Both wool and down will retain heat even when they’re wet. Other fabrics lose their insulating properties when they come in contact with water. Choose wool and down over other materials – including synthetics – to keep yourself downright toasty.

Ditch your wet clothes. If you have to go outside and your clothes get wet, change them ASAP. Wet clothes offer a double whammy. First, they generally don’t retain heat. Worse than that, the water will freeze before it will evaporate. That puts you at serious risk of developing hypothermia.

Helping your home beat the cold

Now, let’s look at ways to improve the comfort of your personal space.

Use a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats can actually help you save money and heat your home to a comfortable temperature. Regardless of your programmed schedule, leave the heat turned up when temperatures drop to single digits or below zero. At that point, your pipes are at risk of freezing. It costs less to run the furnace than it does to repair your plumbing!

Humidify your home. Dry air will make you feel cold, even when the temperature is 70°F or better. A whole house humidifier attached to your furnace can help keep your home comfortably warm and save you money, too.

Adding humidity to dry air will help the air retain heat better and will make you feel more comfortable. It also reduces the air’s ability to transfer moisture from your body. 50% humidity is ideal. If your home’s humidity is lower than that, you’ll feel cold, even when the thermostat says you shouldn’t.

If you don’ t have a whole house humidifier, leave your bathroom door open while you shower. You can also put shallow dishes of water near the heat ducts and radiators to force more water into the air.

Run your ceiling fans clockwise. Ceiling fans have a switch that allows them to run clockwise or counterclockwise. In the winter, run your ceiling fans clockwise, so they force heat that has risen to the ceiling back toward the floors.

Change your furnace filters regularly. Keeping your furnace filters clean is the best way to maintain your heating system’s efficiency. Clogged filters make the furnace work harder, and causes it to consume more energy. Regular filter maintenance will also improve the air quality in your home.

A special note about pipes

Take care of your pipes. Keep pipes from freezing by keeping the heat on. Open sink cabinet doors to help air circulate around the pipes. If the worst happens, turn the water off as the shutoff. Clean the area around the pipe to remove cobwebs, lint, dust and insulation. These things can all ignite! Use an incandescent bulb or a hairdryer to thaw a frozen pipe. You can also use heat tape. Do not use a torch!

If you have to thaw a pipe, open the tap and work your way back to the frozen section. Pressure from the ice will have weakened the affected pipe. It will need to be replaced, even if it isn’t leaking.

Because water expands when it freezes, ice exerts enormous pressure on a pipe. According to one insurance adjuster, the average cost to repair a frozen pipe and its associated damage is $10,000. The repair process can take weeks or months. Most often, water damage caused by pipes isn’t covered by insurance.

The best way to deal with frozen pipes is to avoid them! If you have pipes on or near an outer wall or crawl space, insulate them. Pipe insulation is inexpensive and is readily available at home improvement stores. Flowing water doesn’t freeze readily You can open the tap and let the water run continuously in a stream about the diameter of a pencil. If the thought of wasting water bothers you, remember that paying a larger water bill is cheaper than repairing the damage from a broken pipe.

At Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, we’re here to help. If you experience trouble with your plumbing, furnace or boiler, or you’d like more information about adding a humidifier to your home, please give us a call at (617) 288-2911.

Photo Credit: Marcus Jeffrey, via Flickr

Beverly Hills Shines Light On Urban Water Consumption

California has been devastated by a prolonged drought, causing Governor Jerry Brown to declare a statewide water emergency. That action, taken last June, implemented a mandatory 25% reduction in urban water consumption. Some of the state’s A-listers apparently missed the memo on the new water regulations, and that put the City of Beverly Hills in a bind.

To meet the state-mandated urban water consumption requirements, Beverly Hills implemented restrictions on outdoor watering, car washing and swimming pool usage.


The city sent letters to dozens of over-users. The letter included a request to reduce water consumption and a warning that future bills would begin accumulating punitive surcharges.

Still nothing.

The city was flooded with complaints that its residents were ignoring the watering restrictions. The State of California penalized Beverly Hills by assessing a $61,000 fine for its failure to meet water consumption targets, even though it recognized that the City was doing everything right in its bid to reduce water consumption.

In November 2015, the City sent letters to its highest water consumers, using data from its June to August billing cycle. The letters went to some of the city’s most expensive homes. The water bills in question ranged from $2,500 to more than $31,000.

The worst offender? Recording mogul David Geffen, whose 10-acre Warner Estate swallowed more than 1 million gallons of water in just two months. Geffen said that he’s been trying to get permission from the City to drill a well on his property to tap into groundwater for use around his property.

Other offenders include comedian Amy Poehler, developer Geoff Palmer, directors Brett Ratner and Max Mutchnick. Some of overusage has been attributed to leaking water lines, and the offenders have vowed to have them fixed. Others maintained that they had no previous knowledge that their water consumption was that high.

Despite the city’s get-tough approach to water usage, and its recent progress on curbing urban water consumption, it’s still falling short of the state mandated conservation targets. Officials acknowledge that the city may get fined again for missing the mark.

Prior to the water restrictions, the typical urban water consumption rate for the average Los Angeles resident was about 77 gallons per day. As of January, the average Los Angeles resident consumed 59 gallons of water – 2 gallons shy of the city’s reduction target.

Los Angeles has undertaken some significant conservation measures, including offering rebates of $3 per square foot for turf removal and replacement with drought-tolerant plants. Water conservation is something everyone can do, regardless of where you live in the country. If you’d like more information about water conservation strategies that you can employ here in Boston, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to show you how you can reduce water consumption in and around your home.

Photo Credit: Alejandro Basso, via

Water Efficiency: Steps You Can Take

Water efficiency may not be a familiar concept, but it’s one that you’ll be hearing about a lot in the near future. The term “water efficiency” describes a “right-sizing” approach to the amount of water you use for a particular purpose. Using the right amount of water, rather than using less water, is the goal of becoming more water efficient.

Naturally, the biggest consumers of water around your home include the washing machine, the dishwasher, the shower and the toilets. You may also have some “jumbo” consumers if you have a swimming pool or lawn irrigation system. If you’re serious about improving your home’s water efficiency, here are a few steps you can take.

The biggest consumers of water may not be the biggest water wasters. Before you get started on water efficiency, make sure you’re not wasting water needlessly. Dripping faucets, run-on toilets, plumbing leaks and broken shower diverters all send water down the drain before it can fulfill its intended purpose. These sneaky losers do nothing except raise your water bill.

A dripping faucet may need a new washer or gasket, but more often than not, newer fixtures are sealed, making a repair impossible. If that’s the case, plan to replace the fixture. It’s usually a simple matter of “out with the old, in with the new.” This kind of project typically doesn’t take more than a few minutes and common hand tools. In addition to getting a new fixture, you may want to invest in some Teflon tape to discourage leaks along the fixture threads.

Repairing a leaking toilet often involves replacing the flapper valve at the bottom of the toilet tank. Over time, this valve can crack, causing water to enter the bowl. Your bowl won’t overflow; instead, once the water reaches a certain level in the bowl, it will drain on its own. You can get standard replacement parts for toilets at your favorite hardware or home improvement store.

Plumbing leaks should be addressed immediately. A leak may happen at a weak joint, or could be caused by over-pressure or damage to the plumbing. Whether the leak is out in the open or enclosed in a wall, getting the leak repaired is Job Number 1. Leaking water can cause damage to floors and walls, and can promote the growth of mold and mildew.

A diverter is part of your bathtub/shower fixture. When you use it, you close off the tub spout to force the running water through the showerhead instead. A broken diverter can cause a loss of water pressure or weak water flow at the showerhead or throw off the balance of hot and cold water flow to the shower. If it’s not working at all, it will route water out through the tub faucet and straight down the drain. Broken diverters can also be very noisy!

Some shower fixtures use a diverter cartridge, which can be taken out and replaced. Others have a mechanical diverter that’s part of the spout. You can usually find standard cartridge-style replacements at the hardware or home improvement stores, but you may need to order one directly from the manufacturer. If you have a spout-mounted diverter, you can remove the entire spout and replace it. Tub spouts are either mounted with a setscrew or just thread directly on to the pipe. In either case, you’ll notice the difference on your water bill once you address this problem!

In my next post, I’ll talk about some other ways you can right-size your water-using appliances and fixtures. In the mean time, if you have a plumbing leak or problem that you want us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating to address, give us a call anytime at (617) 288-2911. We offer true, 24-hour emergency plumbing service, and we’re happy to lend a hand.

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CoolSmart Program Changes Head Up 2016

There are some exciting changes to the CoolSmart program for 2016! CoolSmart provides rebates and other assistance to certain utility customers to help them save energy, and lower the cost of replacing older, less efficient HVAC equipment in their homes.

Name change:The first change to the program is a name change. Beginning January 1, 2016, the CoolSmart program will be known as the MassSave Heating & Cooling program. You’ll still get great program benefits in an easy-to-understand program, but the name change reflects the fact that the program offers more than just cooling rebates.

New QIV program requirements: The Quality Installation & Verification (QIV) program is a training certification provided by the CoolSmart program for participating contractors. To take advantage of program rebates, consumers must work with a QIV-certified contractor, like Boston Standard Company. The program requires contractors to attend training sessions to help ensure that new equipment is installed to achieve maximum efficiency. Changes to the QIV program help to ensure that all participating contractors are ready to provide the highest quality installation services, and help customers achieve peak heating and cooling efficiency.

Early AC/Heat Pump Replacement Program: These programs will now be available year-round. This allows consumers to maximize their program rebates and take advantage of off-season discounts on program-eligible heating and cooling equipment. The Early Replacement programs require consumers to retire older, working heating and cooling equipment in order to claim program rebates.

Streamlined forms: Recent, credible research has shown that no one likes to do paperwork, so the MassSave Heating & Cooling programs will be replacing the standard 6-page rebate request forms for Central AC, Heat Pump Water Heater and Mini Split Heat Pump rebates with a simple, 1-page form.
Rebate amounts for 2016: The following rebates will be offered for 2016.

Central AC
16 SEER, 13 EER/$250
Central Heat Pump
16 SEER, 8.5 HSPF/$250
18 SEER, 9.6 HSPF/$500
Mini-Split Heat Pump
18 SEER, 9 HSPF/$250
20 SEER, 11 HSPF/$500
Early AC Replacement
16 SEER, 13 EERm$750
Early Heat Pump Replacement
16 SEER, 8.5 HSPF/$750
18 SEER, 9.6 HSPF/$1,000
Heat Pump Water Heater
< 55 Gallons/$750

If you’d like more information about CoolSmart/MassSave Heating & Cooling Program rebates, the QIV program, or ways you can make your home more efficient and save money at the same time, please call us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 to set up a consultation.

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Leaking pipe replacement program replaces lead fears

If there were two words that strike fear into the hearts of parents, they would be “lead poisoning.” The fear of lead poisoning is of special concern for people who occupy housing built before 1978. Lead is dangerous because it’s toxic and the body stores it, much in the same way it stores calcium. While most exposures to lead come from painted surfaces inside a home, parents often wonder if lead in plumbing can be a source of lead poisoning.

The good news is that lead is no longer used in plumbing fixtures, plumbing components and solder – the metallic mixture that joins pipes together. But you can still find lead in water lines that bring fresh water from the City’s pipes to homes and businesses. In fact, Roxbury and Dorchester are among the areas with the highest concentrations of lead water lines still in service.

The Boston Water and Sewer Commission has no lead components in the City’s water lines, but some homes and businesses still have lead water lines in service. Therein lies the problem. Do the lead water lines contaminate clean drinking water? Lead mineralizes when it’s exposed to water, so the inside of a lead pipe develops a hard rock-like coating over time. Lead particles don’t penetrate the mineral shell. The evidence doesn’t suggest that lead water lines are a significant source of ongoing contamination, but that’s not a comforting thought to individuals and families who receive their water through lead lines.

Replacing a lead water line isn’t hard, but it can be expensive. Replacement usually involves excavating around the old lead, removing it and replacing it with copper or another safe material. Voluntary replacement of lead plumbing is always an option for a homeowner, but when a lead water line breaks from age, damage or cold weather, repair is off the table. Most plumbers today have never handled lead lines (except to remove them) and no longer have the tools or the experience to work with lead pipes safely. Replacement is the only route in this case.

BWSC offers a low-cost, leaking line replacement program for homeowners in its service area. Under the Leak-Up-To-Owner (LUTO) program, BWSC can replace a leaking water line (lead or not) for a reasonable cost, and much less than what it would cost to work with a private contractor. Under the program, homeowners can repay BWSC in 24 monthly installments as part of their regular water bill with 0% interest on the repair.

Eligible accounts are those that serve a 1-3 residence building, have a water line that is no bigger than 2 inches, are up-to-date on their water and sewer account balance, and agree to have BWSC complete the repair. The program is also limited to those properties where replacement does not present any extraordinary challenges, like the removal of fences, shrubs, walls or portions of the building.

If you have a lead water line that isn’t leaking, Boston Standard Company offers a free water analysis using AquaPure & 3M test kits. Based on the results of the analysis, we can help you identify contaminants in your water, and assist with setting up water filtration systems to remove them.

If you would like more information about the LUTO program, please visit the BWSC website. If you would like more information about the water quality and water filtration services Boston Standard can provide, please give us a call at (617) 288-2911 anytime to set up an appointment.

Photo Credit: Boston Standard Plumbing

People Are Noticing Energy-Conscious Boston

People Are Noticing Energy-Conscious Boston

People Are Noticing Energy-Conscious Boston

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has recognized Boston’s energy saving efforts as first in the nation. This is the second consecutive year Boston has been given this designation. A host of state and local policies and initiatives that are designed to help residents reduce both energy and water consumption puts Boston on the top of this list.

Energy efficiency means that homeowners, commercial property owners and governmental authorities can heat, cool and light buildings, deliver clean water and provide more efficient transportation at a lower cost. Those savings can provide the opportunity to fund other quality-of-life initiatives that make an area more attractive to businesses and residents over the long haul.

Boston was awarded 82 out of 100 points, and was the only US city to score more than 80 points on the Council’s annual report card. One initiative that earned major points for Boston was the city’s requirement that medium- and large-sized buildings report energy and water usage, and undergo an energy assessment every five years. Beyond simply reporting consumption, buildings that don’t meet stated efficiency targets must make energy improvements.

Boston also scored favorably for its climate action plan, which aims to cut the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2050. A factor in this goal is the increased use of mass transit, in order to reduce the number of vehicles on the road in the city. Another part of the climate action plan involves engaging residents to make them more aware of their greenhouse gas emissions and to provide ways in which residents can make their homes and commutes more energy efficient.

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating can help you reduce your home’s carbon footprint in a variety of ways. We currently participate in a number of rebate programs designed to reduce the cost of switching to more energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment. We can also help you reduce your home’s clean water consumption, and take advantage of federal and state tax credits designed to encourage energy efficiency. If you’re interested in switching to a cleaner, more cost-effective fuel source, we can help you there, too!

If you would like more information about your home’s current energy consumption, or would like to learn how you can save money and reduce your fuel consumption year round, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We can conduct energy assessments and help you choose the best, most efficient and most cost-effective heating, cooling and plumbing equipment for your home or business.

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Fight Cancer At The 119th Boston Marathon

Fight Cancer At The 119th Boston Marathon

Fight Cancer At The 119th Boston Marathon

The Boston Standard Company is proud to support Rachel Wolfberg and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute marathon team in tomorrow’s 119th Boston Marathon. One person can run a marathon, but it takes an immeasurable number of people and a lot of financial support to hit cancer where it lives.

By supporting runners like Rachel and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute team, we can all do our part to fight this disease, which will impact more than 1.6 million people in the US for the first time in 2015 alone. Each year, more than one-half million people in the US lose their battle with cancer, but research into the disease and strategies to fight it are producing exceptional results.

Breast cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer alone will account for more than 40% of new cancer diagnoses in 2015, so finding new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat this disease is critical. Your support of people like Rachel Wolfberg and the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge can help achieve this goal.

If you would like to support Rachel, please visit:
Rachel’s donation page to make your pledge. Any amount – big or small – can help us all in the fight against cancer!

Fix A Leak Week – 2015

Fix A Leak Week – 2015

Fix A Leak Week – 2015

It’s that time of year again – Fix A Leak Week!

To be honest, the best time to fix a leak is whenever you find one. Believe it or not, some people have trouble recognizing leaks where and when they happen! Not every leak leaves a nice puddle of water on the floor, but a leak of any kind is a leak worth fixing, since leaks consume more than a trillion gallons of treated water per year in the US alone. By reducing leaks, you can save money, energy and help preserve your local environment. In areas where ample water supply is a problem, simply eliminating leaks can help ensure that water remains readily available.

So, what is a leak?

The easiest leaks to identify are “water fountains” – those that dump water everywhere, like broken pipes or leaking pipe joints. These leaks are the ones that typically get fixed fast because they do obvious damage! Most leaks don’t do any damage at all, but these sneaky leaks make up the majority of the trillion gallons wasted each year.

A dripping faucet is an example of a sneaky leak. Because a dripping faucet usually just sends a trickle of water down the drain, we sometimes overlook it. That’s a mistake. A dripping faucet can leak enough water over the course of a week to fill a bathtub! Fixing this kind of leak may be as simple as tightening a loose connection or replacing a washer. Depending upon the kind of fixture you have, you might need to replace the entire faucet. Regardless of the remedy, saving 50-60 gallons per week is worth it!

A broken shower diverter is another kind of sneaky leak. The diverter closes off the tub faucet and forces water up through the showerhead. When a diverter breaks, it rarely stops functioning altogether. You can usually still get water into the showerhead, but you’re also sending a lot of water straight down the bathtub drain. Besides wasting cold water, this kind of leak can also upset the balance between hot and cold water in the shower, and can cause you to drain your hot water tank faster than normal.

By fixing a broken shower diverter, you can reduce your water usage by hundreds of gallons of water per month, and save a little money in the process. Depending upon the type of shower controls you have, this repair may be as simple as replacing a cartridge, or it might require a new shower/tub faucet. Whatever it takes, this repair will pay for itself in a matter of months.

A running toilet is another kind of sneaky leak. If your toilet runs well after the tank has refilled, or takes forever to shut off after a flush, you have a leak. If your toilet turns on to fill the tank periodically, you may need to replace the flapper valve at the bottom of the tank. This valve is a large rubber disc, and it occasionally cracks or wears out. This is not an expensive repair, and your local hardware or home improvement store sells kits to help you replace this valve. If your toilet overfills – that is, it doesn’t shut off when it should – you may be able to simply adjust the float/shut-off mechanism. This zero-dollar fix will pay dividends immediately in the form of lower water bills.

Celebrate Fix-A-Leak Week by spending a few minutes looking for hidden leaks that waste water and drive your water bills up. We can also help you fix more stubborn leaks anytime. Call us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 and we’ll be happy to lend a hand.

Photo Credit: vivekchugh, via

Celebrate World Plumbing Day!

Celebrate World Plumbing Day!

Celebrate World Plumbing Day!

Today – March 11 – is recognized as World Plumbing Day, a day on which we recognize worldwide the importance of clean water, safe water treatment and water conservation. In the developing world, water is quite possibly the most valuable natural resource, and billions of people in the world do not have access to clean water or sanitation.

In the United States, we are fortunate in that we have access to both. That simple fact enables us to avoid illnesses and water-borne diseases that are common in other parts of the world. But World Plumbing Day reminds us that we can do more to preserve the quality of our own lives, improve the quality of life for others, and ensure that we have adequate water and sanitation for future generations.

Conserving water – that is, reducing water usage – is one of the most beneficial things we can do in the United States. By installing water-conserving fixtures, showerheads and appliances, consumers have reduced demand for treated water by three-quarters of a trillion gallons since 2006. In addition to reducing the demand for treated water, consumers have also significantly reduced the energy required to treat and deliver clean water to their homes and businesses. In fewer than 10 years, that has produced a savings of more than $14 billion dollars.

But we can do more. When you shop for new water-consuming fixtures, look for the EPA’s WaterSense label. This designation means that the labeled product works as well as standard models while reducing water consumption by at least 20%. WaterSense labeling is available for a variety of household and commercial plumbing fixtures, including toilets, faucets, showerheads, urinals and irrigation products.

Becoming more “water-efficient” is not only a good idea, it’s essential to preserve the quality of life for our future generations. Drought is a common occurrence in the western United States, but drought conditions affect all of us. According to NOAA, drought conditions are likely to intensify in 14 states between now and June, and new drought conditions are likely to form in at least seven states, including two states in the Great Lakes area!

By adopting water-efficient fixtures on a national basis, we can help reduce water consumption and ease the impact of drought conditions where and when they occur. In addition, by reducing water consumption, we can help ensure that we have adequate water available for human consumption, agriculture and recreational uses.

This is one area in which you can act very locally, and have a positive impact not only on your own expenses, but also on the quality of life in this region. The Boston area has made great strides in the last 30 years to improve the quality, quantity and safety of our municipal water supply. To continue on this path, we all need to take steps to reduce water consumption whenever and wherever we can.

If you would like more information about water-saving fixtures, or ways in which you can reduce the amount of water your home or business consumes, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to review your current plumbing fixtures and show you how you can reduce water consumption without sacrificing comfort.

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How To Triage And Treat a Frozen Pipe

How To Triage And Treat a Frozen Pipe

How To Triage And Treat a Frozen Pipe

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that’s especially true when it comes to plumbing. One of the worst residential plumbing emergencies to contend with is a frozen pipe. How can you recognize a frozen pipe and what should you do if one or more of your pipes freeze?

You can suspect a frozen pipe in cold weather if you open a tap and nothing comes out. You may also see bulges in a pipe, or around joints or valves. Water expands as it freezes, and it can exert enormous pressure on a pipe. Eventually, the pipe will give way, and split. Sometimes pipes are hidden in walls, and that will make a visual diagnosis much harder. The most vulnerable pipes are those in outside walls.
So what can you do to prevent frozen pipes, and how should you respond if you have one?

Don’t let your pipes freeze. Avoiding a frozen pipe is the ideal, so that’s where we’ll start. If you know in advance that the outside temperature will drop below freezing, you should also know that any pipes you have in outside walls, unheated crawl spaces and in basements are vulnerable. Take the following steps to avoid this cold-weather plumbing disaster.

Insulate your pipes. Keep an eye on your hot water pipes. Heated water can be softer than cold water, so it will freeze faster than cold water will. As part of your winterization plans, insulate your water pipes to help them retain heat and resist freezing. Pipe insulation is inexpensive, readily available at home improvement stores, and requires no tools or skills to install.

Open a tap. Moving water doesn’t freeze as easily as standing water does. If you think a pipe is in imminent danger of freezing or has a history of freezing, a trickle of water flowing through the pipe is often enough to ride out the storm. How big should your water stream be? A flow the size of a Number 2 pencil should do the trick. You might wince at “wasting” that amount of water, but a slightly elevated water bill is much cheaper than an emergency plumbing repair.

Warm things up. Raise the temperature in your home, or around the vulnerable pipe(s). Open base cabinet doors, circulate warm air into the vulnerable space, use a space heater and turn up your furnace or boiler.

If, despite your best efforts, you end up with a frozen pipe, what should you do?

Shut down. If a pipe is already showing signs of freezing, shut off the water to the affected leg. (Nothing good will come out of leaving the water on.) Turning the water off will allow you to minimize the impending water damage that can result when the pipe is thawed.

Thaw safely. Open a tap on the frozen run, and use an incandescent light bulb or a hairdryer to warm the pipe. You can also safely use a portable steam cleaner. Start at the open tap and work your way back to the trouble spot. If you start thawing at Ground Zero, the melted water may be stuck behind an ice plug, and may not have a way to exit the pipe.

Do not use direct electrical resistance, a welding torch or other open flame to thaw a pipe. These methods often result in accidental house fires and can cause other personal injuries.

Inspect. Take a very careful look at the pipe once you have thawed it and before you turn the water back on. Very small splits and cracks may have occurred in the pipe, and these will leak and cause water damage if you repressurize the pipe. If you see a split, bulge or crack, don’t even turn the water back on. You’ll need to replace the damaged pipe.

Test. If no obvious damage is visible, test any shut-off valves and pipe joints by turning the water back on. (Have a helper standing by to turn the water off immediately if a leak in the joint or valve has occurred.) If a joint or valve leaks, call a plumber to repair or replace the affected joint(s) or valves.

Replace. Even if the pipe seems intact, consider having a successfully thawed pipe replaced. The pressure from ice is enormous, and the experience of being frozen and thawed can significantly weaken the pipe. In the best case, you’ve converted a frozen pipe from a plumbing emergency to a routine repair that can be scheduled at your convenience. If you don’t replace the damaged (but still intact) pipe, you may be setting yourself up for another plumbing emergency down the road.

Contact us a Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 if you encounter problems with frozen pipes. We can help you safely thaw frozen pipes and repair damaged plumbing.

Photo Credit: mkengstrom, via Flickr