Protect Your Plumbing When Your Furnace Quits
It’s late at night on a cold, wintery evening. You go about shutting down the television, lights and turning down the heat before tucking in the children. You and your spouse decide to turn in for the night as well, snuggle up in bed and go to sleep.
Suddenly, you wake up in the morning to find your house at a less than balmy 57 degrees! You realize you lost power, your heater is on the fritz and/or you’re out of fuel oil.
It’s a snowy, Holiday weekend, so the kids will be home all day. And your chances of finding an HVAC provider to come out to your emergency right away is sadly unlikely. You make the call anyway to schedule the appointment. What? 48 hours from now! Now what do I do?!?
Your instincts kick in and you begin to problem solve.
Your first thought is, how do I get warm! The next, how do I get my family warm. Your mind goes into overdrive problem solving. You begin by layering everyone up, feeding them a warm breakfast (including hot cocoa), then snuggling them together and getting them something to do to keep them busy.
But you forgot something! The plumbing! What can you do to protect your plumbing when your furnace quits? Make this another of your first thoughts, being the last thing you need right now is burst pipes!
Let’s start with the obvious basics:
- If you have a fireplace, gas or wood, get that cooking immediately. (Of course, if you’re fireplace runs on the same fuel that you are out of, that won’t be working either.)
- If you have electric space heaters, you’ll want to place those strategically around the house. (Of course, that is only an option if you have not lost power to your house.)
- Layer your clothing to keep in your body heat. Especially socks and slippers. (I’m always cold if my feet are cold.)
- Have plenty of blankets available to stay warm. (Bundle up!)
- Don’t open the doors, or at least minimize how often you open the doors to the outside.
- Maybe call family or friends to see if they’re up for visitors!
The less obvious steps to take would be to:
- Close doors to rooms that are not being used that don’t have plumbing (like bedrooms, office, etc)
- Keep doors to any rooms that have plumbing open (like bathrooms, laundry rooms, etc.)
- Open up all cabinetry that may be housing plumbing (like kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, etc.)
- If your house gets below 50, you’ll want to run a slow, small trickle of water through the pipes until you get the heat on.
- Heat tape for plumbing is an option for any pipes that are exposed and accessible.
- Check for open windows. We have windows that open both from the top and from the bottom, so if they are not locked, the top window sometimes drops and leaves a crack open. Also, check your basement windows. If there are any cracks or openings, you need to be sure to get them secured.
- If you have none of the above, you may choose to use your oven with the door open. Keep in mind this is not always a safe option, depending on what type of fuel is used. Be sure to have your carbon monoxide (CO2) detectors nearby to ensure you are not subjecting yourself to asphyxiation. (Use caution when using this option; not while sleeping!)
- Kerosene heaters are great for basements and garages that house plumbing, but the smell can be a bit much for in the home, unless absolutely necessary. These also need to be used with caution, as they contain fuel. So if tipped over by a pet, could cause a fire within the home.
- Of course, if you have electric heat, lost power and own a generator; by all means, simply gas up the generator.
- If you still come to find drainage issues, you may need to check on the roof. Your plumbing system vents out the roof through a 4″ opening that may be obstructed.
And to stay warm, feel free to cook up some hot cocoa, cuddle up next to a loved one or pet under some blankets and read a good book or play a game with the kids. And if you’re still feeling cold, a nice workout usually warms a body up pretty quickly.
Try to have fun with it … like a family camping trip. It’s nice to spend time with the family without electronics now and again!
And if you find the pipes do freeze, wrap them in warm cloths and get them warming up so the ice within can melt before bursting the pipe.
I hope this not only helps protect your plumbing when your furnace quits, but also helps you to stay warm this winter.
Be blessed and may you be comforted with heat in the very near future!