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Did You Know?

Colorado is in the
top 10 states with catastrophe-related homeowners insurance claims.

Cold Weather & Frozen Pipes

Almost everyone would agree that spending a frigid, dark winter evening without heat is an uncomfortable nuisance. But, what if you were without heat for a weekend? Or, even a week? What impact would that have on your family? And, what about your house?

Stormy weather conditions during the winter months can cause unexpected power losses no matter where you live - in or out of the city. Generally, in homes throughout the Rocky Mountain region, a loss of electricity can translate into no heat. And, on top of this problem, severe winter weather can also lead to problems with frozen pipes. It can also damage the exterior of your home or create dangerous walking conditions on your property.

Protecting Your Pipes

  • Clean gutters so melting snow and ice can flow freely if it snows or freezes.

  • Keep the house heated to a minimum of 65 degrees. The temperature inside the walls - where the pipes are located - is substantially colder than the walls themselves. A temperature lower than 65 degrees will not keep the inside walls from freezing.

  • Keep cupboard doors open below sinks. If it snows or freezes, keep all lower cupboards open since most plumbing runs underneath cupboards to allow warm air to circulate.

  • Turn on hot and cold faucets enough to let them drip slowly. Keeping water moving within pipes will prevent freezing.

  • Identify the main water shutoff in your home. Find out where it is and how it works in case you have to use it.

  • Keep garage doors closed. The door inside the garage leading to the house is probably not well-insulated as an exterior door.

Protecting Your Home

Ice DamThe photo to the right shows an example of an ice dam. Photo courtesy of Pie Forensic Consultants.

  • Keep sidewalks and entrances to your home free from snow and ice. if you clean after each snowfall, the task will be easier.

  • Make sure steps and hand railings are in good shape. This will help ensure that your family and visitors remain safe.

  • Add extra insulation in attics and basements.

  • Make sure all outside hoses are disconnected. Check outside spigots where hoses are attached.

  • Wrap pipes with heating tape.

  • Remove snow from window wells and all walls. Watch for snow accumulation on the downwind side of a higher-level roof, where blowing snow will collect and could lead to collapse. For safe removal you may want to consult a professional roofing contractor.

  • To reduce the risk of ice dams forming, keep your attic well ventilated to maintain a temperature close to that of the outdoors. A warm attic melts snow on the roof, causing water to run down and refreeze at the roof's edge where it's cooler. If ice builds up and blocks water from draining, water is forced under the roof covering and into the attic or down the inside walls.

  • If you can't easily inspect the roof, the attic is the next best place to check for problems. Look for moisture or discoloration.

  • Make sure gutters are clean and stable.

  • Make sure downspouts slope away from the building and carry water at least five feet away from foundation walls.

  • Examine window and door seals or weather stripping. If sealants around those openings are no longer pliable and continuous, reseal or caulk them.

  • Remove dead tree branches before storm season, if possible. If ice forms on tree limbs, watch for dead, damaged or dangerous branches that could break and fall because of ice, snow or wind and damage your house, a car, or injure someone walking near your property.

Protecting Your Home While You're Away

  • Keep the temperature at the minimum of 65 degrees.

  • Have your home checked regularly. If there is a problem with frozen pipes or water leakage, attending to it quickly could mean far less damage.

  • Have the water system drained. If you plan to be away for an extended period of time, draining the system by a professional can keep pipes from freezing or bursting.

Heating Tips

  • Install a back-up heat source - such as a wood stove. Natural gas, propane and pellet stoves are also options. If you have a fireplace, consider a wood, natural gas, propane or pellet fireplace insert or a pellet basket. Make sure to choose the product with the most fuel availability in your area.

  • Have all existing fireplace inserts and stoves serviced early. Maintenance ensures you won't get caught without a working back-up heat source when you need it most. Gas, wood or pellet stoves, fireplace inserts and fireplaces are best serviced by the dealer who installed the product, by a HEARTH certified fireplace and stove shop in your area or by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep.

  • Stock up on fuel. Obtain well seasoned firewood as early as possible to ensure availability. Manufactured fire logs are easily stored for use in fireplaces. Wood pellets for pellet stoves and fireplace inserts can be purchased in bulk and in many cases delivered directly to your home. Propane is also available for delivery to your home.

Safe Heating Checklist

  • Make sure your back-up heat source is installed properly. Incorrect installation of a stove or fireplace insert can result in fire or toxic gases coming back into your home. A HEARTH certified fireplace or stove shop has qualified installers to ensure that your stove or fireplace insert is installed according to local building and fire codes.

  • Always operate your back-up heat source correctly. For stoves and fireplace inserts, always follow the manufacturer's recommendations for proper installation. use and maintenance.

  • Have your chimney and venting systems inspected annually and cleaned as necessary by a chimney sweep certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). If using a fireplace, stove or fireplace insert, make sure your chimney and vents are functioning properly.

  • Don't position furniture or other flammable material too close to your back-up heat source. According to the National Fire Protection Association, all materials should be kept at least 36 inches away from anything that can burn.

  • Only use the fuel specified for your back-up heat source. For gas heat sources, use gas. For wood heat sources, use wood.

  • Check your smoke alarms. If you have smoke alarms that are hardwired into your home's electrical system, check to see if they have battery back-ups.

  • Every fall, replace all batteries in smoke alarms as a general fire safety precaution.

  • Only use heating devices designed for home use. Don't use a kerosene heater, charcoal grill or candles to heat your home.

Additional Information