How to Protect Your Home During Extreme Cold Weather

Extreme cold weather can be hard on both you and your home. Here are some tips to put into practice when freezing weather, snow, and ice hit your area.

How to Deal with Frozen Pipes

    • Disconnect and drain garden hoses.
    • Cover outside faucets with insulating foam covers.
    • Turn off water to outside faucets, if available, and open valves on faucets to allow them to drain.
    • Turn off sprinkler system and blow compressed air through the lines to drain them.

    • Close or cover foundation vents under house and windows to basements.
    • Close garage doors.
    • Insulate exposed pipes (both hot and cold) under house with foam pipe insulation.
    • Open cabinet doors under sinks.
    • Drip hot and cold faucets in kitchen and bath. Drip single control faucets with lever set in middle.
    • Set icemaker to make ice if the water line to it runs under the house.
    • Don’t forget to check on pipes to your washing machine in the laundry room
    • Locate water main cut-off valve, and have a cut-off key handy.
    • Use a hair dryer, heat lamp, electric heat tape, or a portable space heater to thaw frozen pipes that have not burst.
    • Keep the faucet open when thawing frozen pipes to allow water to begin flowing through it.
  • After the weather has warmed above freezing and any frozen pipes have thawed, turn off dripping faucets and monitor your water meter to check for unseen leaks.

How to Keep Warm in Your Home

    • Have your furnace inspected before cold weather arrives. Inspect the heat exchanger for cracks, install a clean air filter, and check the thermostat to see if it’s working properly.

    • Inspect fireplaces, and chimneys before using, and have them cleaned if needed.
    • Keep drapes and blinds closed, except when windows are in direct sunlight.
    • Put up storm windows, or install sheet plastic window insulation kits on the inside of windows.
    • Cover or remove any window air conditioners.
    • Insulate electrical outlets and switches on exterior walls with foam seals available at home centers.
    • Caulk any cracks or holes on the outside of your house.
    • Repair or replace weather stripping and thresholds around doors and windows.
    • Run paddle ceiling fans on low in reverse (clockwise when looking up) to circulate warm air.
    • Put draft snakes on window sills, between window frames, and against doors.
    • If you heat with propane or fuel oil, make sure the tank is full.
  • If you heat with wood or coal, have plenty of fuel on hand.

How to Protect the Outside of Your Home

    • Clean your gutters and downspouts before cold weather arrives to prevent ice from forming in them.
    • Spray an ice repellent solution on steps and walks before freezing weather arrives
    • Check antifreeze levels in cars. Add if needed, then run the engine to circulate the new antifreeze through the radiator and engine block.
    • Add freeze resistant windshield wiper fluid, and spay to circulate it in lines.
    • Check air pressure in tires, since cold weather causes the pressure to lower.
    • Bring in container plants, add mulch around plants, and cover plants that are prone to frost damage. Remove covering when temperatures warm above freezing.
    • Drain birdbaths and fountains
    • Gently sweep snow off plants and shrubs in an upward motion with a broom.
    • Use rock salt, sand, or clay based kitty litter on walks and drives (NOTE: Salt can damage grass and other plants).
    • Don’t overdo it when using a snow shovel.
  • Stay off your roof during freezing weather, but once the ice and snow have melted, inspect your roof for any damage.

 

How to Stay Safe in an Ice or Snow Storm

    • Stockpile nonperishable food and water.
    • Refill prescription medications in advance of storm.
    • Fill car with gas.
    • Charge cell phones.
    • Have flashlights, batteries, a weather radio, and a manual can opener on hand.
    • A portable generator can come in handy when the lights go out, but take precautions to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning when using.
    • Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and the batteries powering them are fresh.
    • Have a working fire extinguisher on hand for emergencies.
  • A chain saw can come in handy for removing broken limbs after an ice storm.

 

Cold weather survival tips: From saving frozen pipes to warming Valentine’s hearts

With a blast of Arctic air set to sweep into New Jersey this weekend, now is the time to make sure furnaces are in working order and your home’s pipes are protected.
Low temperatures on Saturday night into early Sunday morning will approach zero and could slip below zero in our area, according to the National Weather Service.
“The combination of wind and cold will make for dangerous conditions for the homeless and those not properly dressed this weekend,” according to AccuWeather.
Dressing for cold weather is both an art and a science. Think layers and choose the right fabrics.
Recognizing the warning signs of cold exposure — hypothermia — could save your life.
Here are some tips on what to do to keep pipes from freezing — and what to do if it happens anyway.
How to prepare:

  • Know what areas of your home, such as basements, crawl spaces, unheated rooms and outside walls, are most vulnerable to freezing.
  • Eliminate sources of cold air near water lines by repairing broken windows, insulating walls, closing off crawl spaces and eliminating drafts near doors.
  • Know the location of your main water shut-off valve. If a pipe freezes or bursts, shut the water off immediately.
  • Protect your pipes and water meter. Wrap exposed pipes with insulation or use electrical heat tracing wire; newspaper or fabric might also work. For outside meters, keep the lid to the meter pit closed tightly and let any snow that falls cover it. Snow acts as insulation, so don’t disturb it.

When temperatures are consistently at or below freezing:

  • If you have pipes that are vulnerable to freezing, allow a small trickle of water to run overnight to keep pipes from freezing. The cost of the extra water is low compared to the cost to repair a broken pipe.
  • Open cabinet doors to expose pipes to warmer room temperatures to help keep them from freezing.

If your pipes freeze:

  • Shut off the water immediately. Don’t attempt to thaw frozen pipes unless the water is shut off. Freezing can often cause unseen cracks in pipes or joints.
  • Apply heat to the frozen pipe by warming the air around it, or by applying heat directly to a pipe. You can use a hair dryer, space heater or hot water. Be sure not to leave space heaters unattended, and avoid the use of kerosene heaters or open flames.
  • Once the pipes have thawed, turn the water back on slowly and check for cracks and leaks.

Who to call for help:

  • If pipes inside the home are frozen, call us at (973) 943-0927.
  • If there is no water or low pressure, and neighbors are experiencing the same situation, it could be a water main break, and customers should call the 24-hour customer service line at 1-800-652-6987.

When you are away:

  • Have a friend, relative or neighbor regularly check your property to ensure that the heat is working and the pipes have not frozen.
  • A freeze alarm can be purchased for less than $100 and will call a user-selected phone number if the inside temperature drops below 45 degrees.
  • Residents are also reminded to clear snow from hydrants. Substantial snow accumulations combined with the after-effects of plowing roads and parking lots can leave fire hydrants partially or completely buried in snow.In these conditions, extra precautions should be taken to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning. Pennsylvania has one of the highest rates of carbon monoxide-related deaths in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
 
In these conditions, extra precautions should be taken to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning. NJ has one of the highest rates of carbon monoxide-related deaths in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
 
Though the worst of the cold weather is expected to concentrate on the weekend, winter weather at any time can force schools to delay opening or decide to cancel classes altogether. 
 
Sunday is Valentine’s Day, of course, so bars, restaurant and entertainment venues will be bustling, especially Saturday night.
 
If you decide to cuddle up at home with your sweetie, though, how about making some chocolate-covered strawberries to enjoy while watching a romantic movie?

What to do about Frozen Water Pipes

The damages caused by frozen water pipes can be catastrophic. Just one burst pipe in a home running at 4-8 gallons a minute from a burst pipe can do tens of thousands of dollars damage in a manner matter of minutes, let alone the following mold mitigation problem. Once you have had a major water leak in your home, your insurance company may even cancel your coverage and you may lose your ability to obtain homeowners insurance. Contrary to belief, the pipe freezes and bursts 1st, then the water starts to flow once the ice thaws. For a burst to happen, the water super cools a couple of degrees lower than freezing in the pipe causing ice to form. It is the growth of the ice water to flow after the thaw.
Green Apple Plumbing NJ’s policy is to educate the public on what they can do to help prevent the possibility and what to do, if it does ever occur.that builds up excessive pressures in excess of 3000psi. This excessive pressure splits the pipe that causes the

1 – Prevention

  1. Locate and identify any and all shut off valves in your home and make sure they work
    1. Everyone should know where their “Main water valve” is and how to operate it
  2. Identify any potential problems
    1. Areas where pipes may be on outside walls, ceiling, crawl spaces, attics, etc.
  3. Seal any gaps around the home where cold air may penetrate and become in contact with piping. In the severe cold, especially wind driven, even a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze.
    1. Dryer vents, windows, cable penetrations, etc.
  4. Turn off and drain all standard outside hose bibs.

2 – When the temperature is expected to drop

  1. Open kitchen sink and any vanity doors of any potential problem area
  2. With pipes that are on outside walls that may be a freeze problem, leave a small trickle of both the hot and cold water running.
  3. Temporarily seal off any crawl space vents that may be around the foundation.
  4. Keep the house warm

3 – What to do if you experience a frozen pipe

(The first sign of a “frozen” pipe is reduced or no flow at a plumbing fixture.)

  1. If you experience a “no flow” situation.
    1. Turn off the “Main” water valve” to the house and leave the faucets “open” **
    2. DO NOT use any open flame to attempt to thaw the pipe
    3. DO NOT use any electric heater, hair dryer applied directly to the piping as any leaking water may cause electrocution
    4. Turning the water back on is best handled with (2) people. One person turning on the water “slowly” and the other walking about the house to be sure no water is running.
  2. Green Apple Plumbing NJ does not recommend sending a plumber to thaw out piping as it is very time consuming and costly to the client. Heat and patience is the best way to get the pipes to thaw. We do however recommend that if a freeze occurs, find the source and correct it so it will not happen again. If you were lucky enough that it did not burst the first time, you may not be so lucky the next time. The pipe(s) that froze may already be fatigued so the next time they may burst.
  3. If water is flowing, turn off the Main water valve immediately and open the lowest hot and cold faucets in your home, I.e. basement laundry tray.

** Be aware that if the water to your house is shut off, it may also turn off any fire protection system you may have.

4 – What to do if you leave your home in the winter

  1. Turn the Main water valve off to your home ***
  2. Leave the heat on to the house and set no lower than 60*
  3. Have a neighbor stop by daily, especially when the temperatures are in the 20s or below.

*** If you have “hot water and/or steam heat, the water must remain on even when you are not there. A neighbor stopping by is critical in the scenario. If you have any questions or concerns feel free to call your friends at Green Apple Plumbing NJ toll free at 888-315-5564

Show Your Furnace A Little TLC

The following are recommended gas furnace maintenance procedures. The furnace owner should be urged to have a professional service contractor check the performance and operation of the furnace every year. This ensures the furnace owner of receiving the best possible performance and comfort from the equipment.
Warning: Disconnect the main electrical power to the unit before attempting any maintenance. Failure to turn off the electrical power may result in shock, causing personal injury or death.

Note that a new home may require more frequent filter attention until the dust from construction is removed.

Filters

1. Keep the air filters clean. A new home may require more frequent filter attention until dust from construction is removed.
2. How to clean filters:
Plastic filters – Vacuum clean; wash with detergent and water. Air dry thoroughly and reinstall.
Cardboard and fiberglass – Discard when dirty and replace with a like-sized similar filter.
3. If using an electronic air filter, remove the filter furnished with the furnace and follow the maintenance instructions furnished with the electronic air filter.
Important: Do not operate the furnace without filters. Dust entrained with the air can lodge in the blower wheel, in the cooling coil fins, in furnace controls, in air ducts, and at the supply registers. Any recirculated dust particles are heated and charred by contact with the heat exchanger. This residue soils ceilings, walls, drapes, carpets, and other household articles.
Important: If replacing the factory filter with an aftermarket filter, always check the furnace temperature rise to be sure the airflow is adequate.
Note: Some filters must be resized to fit certain units and applications.
For example, some units require removal of a segment of filter and frame for proper width for a bottom or side filter.
 

Lubrication

The indoor blower motor sleeve bearings and induced draft motor are prelubricated and should not require attention for an indefinite period of time. However, these are some recommendations for service technicians:
1. Motors without oiling ports – prelubricated and sealed. No further lubrication is required. In case of bearing problems, the service technician should replace the motor.
2. Motors with oiling ports add 10 to 20 drops of electric motor oil to each bearing every two years for somewhat continuous duty, or at least every five years for light duty. Do not over-oil.
Excessive lubrication can damage the motor.
3. To access oiling ports or to relubricate sealed indoor blower motor bearing, remove the blower assembly and motor.
A. Remove the wiring from the control board compartment.
B. Remove the screws from the blower housing that secure the assembly.
C. Slide the blower assembly out.
D. Loosen the set screw(s) securing the blower wheel to the motor shaft, remove any motor ground wire, and remove the screws from the motor mounting bracket legs.
E. Slide the bracket assembly from the housing.
F. Lubricate the motor bearings.
G. Reassemble using the reverse procedure outlined above.
Exercise care when sliding the blower assembly back into the unit and be sure that it is reinstalled properly.
The service technician should clean the motor periodically to prevent the possibility of overheating due to an accumulation of dust or dirt on the windings and the motor exterior. If the motor needs cleaning, clean the blower wheel also. A blower wheel loaded with dirt or dust limits airflow, eventually causing furnace damage.
As suggested earlier, clean or replace the air filters. Dirty filters restrict airflow and adversely affect blower and furnace operation.

Burner And Heating Components

The furnace should operate for many years with no malfunctions. However, the service technician should inspect the heat exchanger passages, the venting system, and the burners for correct operation, and for any signs of corrosion. The heat exchanger passages and vent system should be inspected (and cleaned if required) by the technician annually.
It is recommended that the heat exchanger be removed for inspection. However, with some products, this may not be feasible. If the heat exchanger is removed, the technician should follow these procedures.
1. Turn off furnace electrical power and set the thermostat to its lowest temperature.
2. Shut off the gas supply to the furnace either at the meter or at a manual valve in the supply piping.
3. Remove the burner door. On downflow and dedicated horizontal models, the blower door and burner door flange must also be removed.
4. Disconnect the gas supply piping from the gas valve.
5. Remove screws connecting the burner tray to the center panel.
6. Mark all wires on the gas valve for proper reconnection and disconnect the gas valve wiring.
7. Remove the burner tray and manifold assembly from the unit.
8. Remove all screws in the unit top plate. Remove the wires and tube from the pressure switch. Remove the top plate with the pressure switch attached.
9. Remove the draft inducer wiring. Remove screws connecting the draft inducer to the center panel. Take care not to damage the gasket behind the draft inducer.
10. Remove screws on heat exchanger perimeter. With hot surface ignition, remove the connecting screws along with the associated wiring.
11. With an upward and forward motion, lift the heat exchanger from the unit.
12. Clean or replace the heat exchanger, if necessary, and reinstall.
13. Reassemble the furnace in reverse order.
Warning: Holes in the vent piping or heat exchanger can allow toxic fumes to enter the home. Replace the vent pipe or heat exchanger if leaks are found. Failure to follow this warning may cause products of combustion to circulate into the living space creating potentially hazardous conditions, including carbon monoxide poisoning.
It is recommended that at the beginning of the heating season and about midway through the heating season the service technician visually inspect the main burners and pilot burner for proper flame characteristics.
Any furnace using existing high-temperature plastic vent piping must have the vent inspected annually for any cracks, pipe separation, or other deterioration of the vent material.
Important: At the beginning of the heating season, the flame sensor on electronic ignition units should be cleaned with steel wool by the technician.