Cold snap leads to thousands of home service calls

BALTIMORE, Md. - The freezing temperatures are causing issues around the City. Baltimore City Department of Publics is working to repair nearly three dozen water main breaks. Meanwhile, the cold snap is also affecting home plumbing. Service companies have had their hands full with pipe bursts and water heater issues.

Michael & Son Services has received 1,400 calls for service in the last three days.

“The piping runs really close to the wall, it was insulated but the temperature still allowed the water in the pipe to freeze,” said Josh O’Neill, a plumbing technician with Michael & Son Services, Inc.

The pipe ruptured, leaked, and left an ice mass on the bathroom floor of an Ellicott City business. If the property owner had kept the room warmer, he might not be looking at the mess.

“It's definitely cheaper to take the precaution than have a rupture and have to have it actually replaced,” said O’Neill.

O'Neill recommends keeping interior pipes heated and insulated.

“Things like hose bibs on the outside of the home those could be winterized just by turning off the valve that supplies the hose bib with water, opening up the hose bib and allowing the water that's sitting in the colder temperatures to drain out of the pipe before it's allowed to freeze,” said O’Neill.

There's also styrofoam covers and electrical heat tape to keep pipes insulated. To help protect water lines, let a thin stream of cold water run from a basement faucet. The water can be caught in a bucket and used later. If an interior pipe is frozen, you should warm it with hot air from a blow dryer where it enters your house. And monitor your sump pump. A frozen drain pipe could result in a flooded basement.

As for pipes outside your home, you're on the hook for water and sewer lines running from the meter to the house. If one ruptures, homeowner's insurance may not cover the repair.
 
“Not everything is covered. You'll have coverage for a sudden and accidental burst usually including the ensuing water damage. The damage to the pipes themselves will probably not be covered,” said Robert Baron, associate commissioner for property casualty for the Maryland Insurance Administration.

O'Neill says he responds to those calls daily, which is why you may want to look into protection plans.

“You're looking at anywhere from $4,000-$8,000 and you know that's just a ball park,” O’Neill said.

The City partnered with HomeServe USA to provide service protection plans. They run around $5-$10 per month. For more information, click here.

Also, you want to know where the water shutoff valve is in your home. If a pipe bursts or the power goes off, you'll want to turn the water off to keep any other pipes from freezing.

DPW recommends always keeping on hand a three day supply of bottled water. One gallon per person per day.

For water emergencies in Baltimore City, please call 311, or call 410-396-5352 in our Baltimore County service area.

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