Avoid frozen pipes, use heaters safely: Tips for frigid weather

Fri, 01/14/2022 - 8:45am

    A strong mid-January cold front is moving into the area, causing temperatures to drop into the single digits and below zero from now through Tuesday morning, according to the US National Weather Service in Gray, January 10. 

    Dangerous wind chills are also expected and it will feel more like 15 to 30 below zero.

    The Maine Emergency Management Agency recommends that those in danger of running out of heating fuel should contact their fuel company as soon as possible and be sure to clear a path to the fuel pipes and tank to expedite the delivery process. Lowering the temperature in your home can help conserve fuel, but the temperature should not be set below 55 degrees to avoid pipes from freezing.

    To prevent frozen pipes:

    - Locate and insulate pipes most susceptible to freezing, typically those near outer walls, in crawl spaces or in the attic. Use insulation made especially for this purpose.

    - Wrap pipes with heat tape (UL-approved).

    - Seal any leaks that allow cold air inside where pipes are located.

    - Disconnect garden hoses and shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house.

    - Let hot and cold water trickle at night from a faucet on an outside wall.

    - Open cabinet doors to allow more heat to get to uninsulated pipes under a sink or appliance near an outer wall.

    - If you plan to be away, have someone check your house daily to make sure the heat is still on to prevent freezing, or perhaps drain and shut off the water system (except indoor sprinkler systems).

    If pipes freeze:

    - Make sure you and your family know how to shut off the water in case pipes burst. Stopping the flow of water can minimize the damage to your home. Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent. Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch.

    - Always be careful of the potential for electric shock in and around standing water.


    MEMA recommends that Maine people are sure that alternate heat sources are in proper working condition, properly installed, and that the user follows the manufacturers guidelines.

    Keep heaters at least three feet away from anything that can catch fire.

    Never use your oven to heat your home because it can be a fire hazard.

    For further tips or resources on heating during the winter months, ">https://www.maine.gov/energy/winter-heating-resources"> visit this Winter Heating Guide produced by the Governors Energy Office.

    Safety tips when using portable and kerosene heaters from the U.S. Fire Administration: 

    -Place space heaters on a solid, flat surface.

    -Make sure the heater has an automatic shut-off, so if it tips over, it shuts off.  

    -Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.

    -Keep anything that can burn, such as bedding, clothing and curtains, at least three feet away from the heater.

    -Check your space heater for cracked or damaged cords and plugs.

    -Plug space heaters directly into wall outlets and never into an extension cord or power strip.

    -Only use portable heaters from a recognized testing laboratory.

    -Refuel your kerosene heater outside.

    Those using alternate heat sources should be sure to follow the manufacturers guidelines.


    Fireplace safety tips from the U.S. Fire Administration:

    -Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace to prevent embers or sparks jumping out.

    -Do not burn paper in your fireplace.

    -Put the fire out before you go to sleep or leave your home.

    -Put ashes in a metal container with a lid, outside, at least 10 feet from your home.

    -Have your chimney inspected and cleaned each year by a professional.


    Wood Stove safety tips from the U.S. Fire Administration:

    -Make sure your wood stove is three feet from anything that can burn.

    -Do not burn paper in your wood stove.

    -Put the fire out before you go to sleep or leave your home.

    - Have your chimney inspected and cleaned each year by a professional.


    Generators should not be used inside or in an enclosed space such as a porch or garage. They must be properly installed and situated at least 15 feet away from a home or business.

    Those using generators or alternate heat sources should also have working carbon monoxide detectors.

    Please contact your local fire department if you need further information about installing carbon monoxide detectors in your home.  

    Reach Sarah Shepherd at news@penbaypilot.com