Monday, January 19, 2009

Surviving The Cold Snap by Not Being Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

We had a wicked cold spell here in New England, maybe not as bad as like North Dakota, but when I woke up on Saturday it was -4F, it got to a high of 12F where I work on the weekends. Oh can you say BRRRRR. The barn was a balmy 45F, a combination of the animals and the heat. I felt like I was in Bali.

I was worried about my own little house. I had my pipes freeze one year, thawed in time, thank goodness. I started the "heating process" for this past weekend early, like Thursday AM. I turned on all the electric baseboard heat (and watched the meter spin wildly), turned all the cold water faucets to a steady drip, and opened the cabinet doors so the heat could reach the pipes under the sink. I also asked my lovely neighbor to check the taps each day for me, left and crossed my fingers. I came home to a toasty warm house (63F) and running water. Normally when I leave for the weekend, I turn the heat down to around 45 or 50, its' been chilly when I've come home. I crank the gas fireplace for a quick warm up. Thank you universe for protecting my pipes this past weekend.

My lovely neighbors were not so lucky. They had one pipe freeze and another burst. Luckily, it happened while one of them was home and they were able to turn off the water to the house and locate the broken pipe. They had a pipe freeze a couple years ago and had a feeling it was in the same area. It was. They have a plumber coming over today to assess the damage.

I talked to lovely neighbors wife last night (she came over to take a shower) and to thank her for checking on my house. I asked what temperature she had the heat on at her house when the pipe froze/burst. She shocked me by saying that they had turned off the electric heat to the house and were relying on the wood stove for heat. I was stunned to say the least. They turned off the heat. The wood stove is on the opposite side of the house from almost all the plumbing. They have an open floor plan of a kitchen~dining room ~living room. The wood stove is in the living room. The laundry/mud room, just off the kitchen, was an addition to the house is on concrete piers and has sort of an open space underneath it. They also had the door to the laundry-mud room closed (too drafty) during the cold snap. This is also where the water pipes come in and converge. The pipes between the laundry-mud room and the kitchen froze. I know that money is becoming an issue with them and believe me I know how expensive running electric baseboard heat is. BUT the vicious cold spell was only supposed to last a couple days. I made the decision to run the heat to avoid such as issue as frozen/burst pipes. I know I'll see a spike in my electric bill, but my plumber runs $85 an hour just to show up, I don't think I spent $85 in electric this past weekend.

I really feel for my lovely neighbors. I know they are having a bunch of issues, one of them money. This repair is not going to be cheap by any standard, even with them doing a fair amount of the non plumbing work themselves. By having the electric heat on would it have avoided the frozen pipe issue, maybe, maybe, maybe not. But I think yes, it might, the mudroom would have been warm, the kitchen warm, the pipe that burst was in the wall between the two rooms. Sigh. I do feel sorry for them in this case. 


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