A winter power outage can be hard to weather, but if you have a source of heat, you will likely be fine. The problem comes with your pipes. The residual heat in your home will keep pipes from freezing for a couple of days during extremely cold weather, but longer outages can lead to pipe problems. This is especially true if you are only able to heat one room during the outage, so the rest of the house is shut off from the warmth. The following tips can help you prevent frozen pipes and plumbing problems later.
Tip #1: Insulate the Pipes
Exposed pipes are in the most danger of freezing. This means the exposed pipes underneath sinks or that are visible in your basement ceiling. The pipes in your walls are generally surrounded by insulation. Wrapping these with foam insulation wrap can prevent them from freezing.
Tip #2: Let It Drip
Open up faucets slightly so there is a slow drip at each one. Moving water takes longer to freeze. Pipes that do freeze are also less likely to burst if the tap is open enough to allow excess air out of the pipes so there is room for the ice to expand.
Tip #3: Shut Off the Water
If you won't be staying in your home during the outage, consider turning off the main water valve that flows into your home, and then open the taps to let the last of the water drain out. This way, there won't be any water going into the house to freeze pipes. Even if you stay in the house, you may want to shut off valves to all but one bathroom and sink to minimize the pipes that are capable of freezing.
Tip #4: Winterize the Toilets
Any toilets that won't be used during the outage should also be winterized so the water in the bowl or trap doesn't freeze. Pour a bit of rubbing alcohol into the bowl or add some antifreeze that is made for RV water tanks. You can even pour a bit into bathtub and sink drains so the water in their traps doesn't freeze.
Tip #5: Drain the Boiler and Water Heater
If you have an electric boiler and radiators for heat, you need to shut down the fill valve and open up the drain valve on each and drain out the water. Place a note on your thermostat reminding you to refill them before turning them back on when the power returns. Your hot water heater will keep water warm, or at least at room temperature, for several days. Once the water begins feeling cold, it's time to close the fill valve and drain the water heater until the electricity returns.
For more information, contact Walt's Plumbing or a similar company.