Thousands of families have one or more rooms in their homes ruined and their lives disrupted each winter by water pipes freezing and breaking, warns the nation's largest insurer of homes, State Farm Insurance.
According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, claim payments by all insurance companies over the past decade for these kinds of losses have exceeded $4 billion.
When the outside temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 6 degrees Celsius), water pipes in homes with little or no insulation are likely to freeze and break. In fact, a one-eighth inch (3-millimeter) crack in a pipe can spew out more than 250 gallons of water a day, destroying floors, furniture, appliances and personal items.
Homeowners can avoid frozen pipes by having adequate insulation where pipes run along outside walls, floors and ceilings. They can disconnect outside garden hoses, wrap exposed pipes with insulating sleeves or tape, and seal foundation cracks that let arctic air freeze pipes in crawlspaces.
Additionally, there are two simple tasks homeowners can do in about two minutes that can help protect pipes and homes when a severe freeze is predicted: open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to piping under sinks and vanities near exterior walls, and run a small trickle of water at vulnerable cold and hot faucets.