Preventing Ice Dams and Frozen Water Pipes

Seasonal maintenance is always important, but even more so as we head into February, when temperatures really begin dropping off. Luckily, through taking certain precautions, homeowners can guard against the worst of winter’s ravages. Taking the right steps now can help you prevent two of the most common — as well as serious and expensive — risks to your home: ice dams and frozen pipes.

We’ll now discuss how these events happen and run through the preventative measures you need to take.

What Causes Ice Dams & What Can Be Done to Prevent Them From Forming?

Ice dams normally happen as a result of heavy snow buildup melting during the day and then refreezing at night with the lower temperatures. If this cycle continues for several days, the melted water and ice will gradually form under shingles and enter the attic, causing damage to your ceiling, walls and property.

Luckily, you can prevent this with standby generators. These will turn on within seconds of an outage and keep your electricity going until power is restored.

Before it starts getting too cold, it’s important to make sure your generator is running properly and can get you through the season. 

You can prevent ice dams from forming through taking the following steps:

  • Make sure there is no debris, snow or ice in your gutters and downspouts.
  • Prevent the accumulation of large amounts of snow on your room. You can use a roof rake, which lets you stand on the ground, while you safely pull the snow off your home's roof.
  • Ensure you have the proper amount of attic insulation and ventilation. Having good airflow is essential to maintaining a cool, dry attic.

Frozen pipes can also cause considerable damage to your home. While you may be tempted to save a bit of money by turning down your heat when you’re sleeping or away, this also heightens the risk for frozen pipes, which are far more expensive to repair. 

To prevent the risk of frozen pipes, take the following steps:

  • Wrap the pipes with UL-approved heat tape and seal air leaks.
  • Disconnect garden hoses. Shut off and drain the water that runs from pipes to outside faucets.
  • If you will be away for an extended period of time, drain and shut off the water supply (except for the indoor sprinkler systems).
  • While you're away, have someone regularly check your home to ensure the heat is still on and that all your equipment is fine.
  • Make sure you and all of your family members know how to shut off the water to your home.

If you do discover frozen pipes, remember the following:

  • Don't try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch.
  • If pipes burst, stop the flow of water as soon as possible, which will serve to minimize damage.
  • Be mindful of the risk of electric shock that exists in and around standing water.
  • Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent right away to alert them to the frozen pipes.

Through taking these precautions, homeowners can prevent much more costly damage caused by ice dams and frozen pipes.

SMO Energy wants to make sure that Southern Maryland residents and businesses stay safe this winter. Contact our Client Care Center at 1-888-222-3720 if you have any questions about your heating system or other equipment. The Center is available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. We also offer 24/7 emergency service.

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