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Sub-zero Temperatures: Tips on how to keep your pipes and car from freezing as temperatures dip

Keep your pipes from freezing and potentially bursting
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Posted at 8:27 AM, Jan 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-31 23:18:27-05

BALTIMORE — The sub-zero conditions can be costly for homeowners and freezing pipes are a major concern for your house and car.

It is very important to make sure your pipes don't freeze in these conditions. One way to help is by letting a small stream of water run. By letting the water flow, it makes it harder for pipes to freeze. This should be done to a faucet on an outside wall or one far from your water heater to allow water to travel through the entire system.

There are some things you can do now to keep your pipes from freezing and potentially bursting.

Howard County Department of Public Works Bureau of Utilities suggest a few tips when temperatures are below 15 degrees:

  • Wrap or insulate exposed pipes susceptible to low temperatures.
  • Utilize other devices, such as heat tape, to help keep pipes from freezing.
  • Leave hot and cold water dripping the thickness of a pencil on nights when temperatures dip below 15°f.
  • Some pipes, such as those located in cabinets or vanities, and situated against an outside wall may be insulated but may be likely to freeze. It is a good practice to leave cabinet doors open to allow heat in the room to keep pipes warm and prevent freezing.
  • Wrap or insulate exposed pipes susceptible to low temperatures.
  • Utilize other devices, such as heat tape, to help keep pipes from freezing.
  • Leave hot and cold water dripping the thickness of a pencil on nights when temperatures dip below 15°f.
  • Some pipes, such as those located in cabinets or vanities, and situated against an outside wall may be insulated but may be likely to freeze. It is a good practice to leave cabinet doors open to allow heat in the room to keep pipes warm and prevent freezing.

The bureau also suggests these simple steps to avoid a water leak and damage:

  • Turn off inside water valve for any hose connections and open the outside hose bib to drain the line.
  • Know where your home’s inside main water cutoff valve is and check that it is functional by hand. In case of a leak this valve will turn off water flow coming into the home and thereby limit damage.
  • Seal any air leaks that allow icy blasts to reach pipes.
  • For homes with crawl spaces, close outside air vents located in the foundation wall during extremely cold temperatures to keep exposed plumbing from freezing.
  • If you have a programmable thermostat, consider leaving it at a constant temperature, never below 55°f.

Remember, if you're going on vacation or leaving your home for an extended period, consider maintaining minimal heat to prevent freezing.

But your pipes in your home are not the only ones you should be worried about.

The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA), has a list of tips on how to keep parts of your car from freezing:

  • Use vegetable oil and a paper towel to coat the rubber door seal to prevent it from freezing shut. Should a door be frozen closed, rather than pulling the door open, gently push forward to break the ice seal. Suddenly pulling the door can damage the seal.
  • Having at least one-half tank of fuel will prevent fuel lines from freezing, rendering the vehicle temporarily inoperable. A full tank is preferred as more fuel is used during bitter cold as drivers often let vehicles run in idle to warm up the engine and associated components.
  • Check your radiators and coolant hoses for any leaks. A small drip can lead to a burst hose while on a road and will leave a you stranded in a very dangerous place – on the side of a high-speed highway. Running out of coolant with a hot engine also leads to an extensive and expensive engine repair.
  • An aging battery is very likely to fail during colder temperatures. At 32 degrees, a battery loses 35 percent of its strength. During cold weather, unplug mobile device chargers from cigarette lighters and make sure terminals are corrosion-free.
  • Make sure to keep the windshield washer reservoir topped with fluid. The combination of a dirty windshield and sunlight can significantly reduce your visibility and pose a hazard to pedestrians, bicyclists and other motorists.
  • It’s a good idea to keep blankets in a vehicle, bottles of water and flares, just in case of a mechanical breakdown.
  • If a you become disabled while in traffic, it is best to stay with the vehicle, turn on hazard lights and dial #77. Run the engine and heater for short intervals and crack the window slightly to prevent carbon monoxide buildup.
  • Just like extreme heat, never leave animals in a freezing vehicle, even for a few minutes. Temperatures can drop quickly once a vehicle is turned off.