Professionals offer advice to combat frigid weather

jmink@macon.comJanuary 3, 2014 

This time of year, Merri West Davis fields several calls from people who are waiting for their pipes to thaw.

Often, it’s difficult to speed up the process because many pipes are concealed within the walls. Still, there are some tips residents should follow to keep their pipes from freezing or at least avoid much damage when they do, said Davis, owner of West Plumbing in Warner Robins.

As temperatures are expected to plunge next week, professionals offer protection advice for items from pipes to plants.

In Macon, while meteorologists predict a high temperature of 57 degrees Sunday, an arctic blast will send temperatures plummeting to near-record lows next week, according to the National Weather Service. Tuesday’s high is predicted to reach 37 degrees -- the record was 35 degrees in 1988. The low will be around 19 degrees.

Those temperatures can be uncomfortable for people but deadly for outdoor plants. If they can, residents should bring their outdoor plants inside, said Chuck Pittman, owner of Riverfront Landscaping in Macon.

If plants cannot be moved inside, they should be covered with a sheet or cardboard. Also, plant owners should keep 2 or 3 inches of mulch around their plants at all times, Pittman said.

“It’s going to provide it with some insulation, but it will also retain some moisture,” Pittman said. “When it gets cold, these high winds will dry the plants.”

Additionally, people should turn off their irrigation systems. If the water freezes, it will hurt plants, and it can also cause slipping hazards, Pittman said.

On the other hand, when it comes to indoor faucets, residents should keep a steady stream running -- both hot and cold -- to protect their pipes, Davis said.

“Some make the mistake of only leaving one (side) running,” Davis said. “As long as it’s below freezing, they need to keep (the faucets) running.”

Residents also should close their crawl space doors, garage doors and vents, if possible. They should keep their bathroom and kitchen cabinet doors open, so heat can circulate, she said.

Outside faucets generally are the first to freeze, and Davis recommends insulating those. A thrifty way is to tape newspapers around the faucet, she said.

At Ace Hardware in Warner Robins, pipe insulation sales -- along with other winter items, such as weather stripping -- are slightly up, said David Bates, a store clerk.

If pipes do freeze, the goal is to keep them from bursting. A quick thawing tip, for those who can easily get to their pipes, is to hold a hair dryer to them, Davis said. But, most importantly, residents should make sure their faucets are turned on, so water has a place to go when the pipes thaw.

“A lot of people have the faucet off, and when the pipe starts thawing out, the water doesn’t have anywhere to go,” she said, “and the pipes are going to expand and burst.”

And in case the pipes burst, residents should know beforehand how to turn off their water supply, Davis said.

“Once it bursts, it doesn’t take a very long time for a massive amount of water in a pipe to do a lot of damage,” she said.

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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