Living in Michigan requires us to perform some extra work on our infrastructure during the cold months. The Department of Public Works (DPW) Water & Sewer Division is responsible for the City’s public water and sewer infrastructure, but what can residents do to keep their homes safe from cold weather during the winter?
At work, I have a list of things that we must get ready to prepare for the cold months ahead. To ensure nothing gets missed, I use my Outlook calendar, our asset program and one of the most vital tools I have in my box: conversation. Every year, around October 1st, the DPW has a winter kickoff meeting to discuss what work needs to be performed. The “to-do” list is long and includes things like changing operations at the water tower, checking heater controls in our equipment panels, winterizing fire hydrants, inspecting our emergency equipment, verifying our inventory and a whole list of other things.
But enough about that! Let’s get back to the topic. What about you and your home? One of the most important things I have found to do at my house is the need to find and stop cold air leaks. These leaks not only cost you money due to higher heating bills but can cost you thousands of dollars in damage. If the air leak is in the right spot, it doesn’t take much for it to freeze a pipe and stop the flow of water and if not caught in time, the pipe can burst.
In 2019, Michigan saw the third-most frozen pipe damage, according to new data from State Farm. There was more than $23 million in damage claims. State Farm says more than 1,000 households in Michigan reported damages last year.
Therefore, every year I try and do a walk around my home and look for any issues like missing caulk or seals around the windows and doors, making sure the windows are shut and locked, disconnecting the garden hose and shutting off the water inside and feeling around for any drafts. Basements are probably the first place to start, as approximately 37% of all frozen pipes occur in the basement. Exterior walls with pipes in them or cabinets that are against exterior walls with pipes in them are also good places to check. These areas can be freeze points and it doesn’t necessarily need a draft to cause a problem, just the cold temperatures on the exterior wall in an enclosed cabinet can cause issues. For those of you with crawl spaces checking for drafts, exposed pipes and water leaks is even more important due to how cold the space can get and the fact that we tend not to go in them a lot compared to a basement.
Remember, prevention is key. There are a lot of resources out there to help you make a list and give you ideas on how to prepare for winter. Prevention also allows you to do it on your time and control cost to fit your budget. I invite you in the comment section to share some of your winter preparation ideas. Maybe one of your solutions could help someone else.
Rob Cox, Utilities Supervisor, Department of Public Works