Saturday, January 29, 2011

Are your pipes protected

As the harsh days of January continue, we are finding record low temperatures across the country.  Most areas have not been spared, even the deep south.  This time of year, with freezing temperatures persisting for days on end,  homeowners need to be very aware of the potential threat of...yes, the dreaded pipe burst due to it being frozen.  According to State Farm Insurance, roughly a quarter million homes across the country are effected by pipes freezing and bursting each year.  A costly issue for the homeowner.  As the water freezes in the pipe, it creates pressure in the pipe and can cause a slight burst.  Most people assume that the pipe just bursts open.  In fact, most often, the culprit is a slight tear. An eight inch crack in a water pipe can spill 250 gallons of water a day.  A small hole, but a lot of water. Much reason for concern.
So what should a homeowner do?  To start, the pipes that are most likely to freeze are those that are located on the outside wall of the house. Although exterior walls should have proper insulation, the cold air still may find its way into the space and travel up the pipe, causing a freeze.  Pipes that run through the attic, garage, basement, and crawlspaces are also areas to identify.  These pipes should be insulated if they pose a threat.  Foam tubes can be purchased and wrapped around the pipes.  Pipe insulators will help keep the pipes warm, making it less likely that they will freeze.  Heat tape can also be used to wrap pipes.  Next, seal leaks that could allow cold air to reach pipes. To further reduce the risk of pipes freezing, disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to 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.  If you have pipes that are located on an outside wall, such as a kitchen or bathroom sink, experts suggest opening the cabinet doors to expose the trap and pipes to the warmer interior air.  During  extremely cold periods, or if you are located in an area that remains below freezing for extended periods of time, it is also suggested that you leave the faucet open slightly, so that water is dripping out, both hot and cold.
What if your pipes freeze? Don't take a chance.  If you turn the faucet on and nothing comes out, the pipes may have frozen. Leave the faucets on and call a plumber.  Never use a torch to try and thaw the freeze. 
The thought of frozen pipes is a homeowners nightmare, however, with some simple maintenance and precautions, this can be avoided.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Beware of attic insulation that may be harmful

Keeping your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer requires attic insulation.  That is a general fact. But did you know that some attic insulation can be harmful to your health, especially if you have an older home, particularly in the northern parts of the country.  Some attics may be filled with Zonolite Attic Insulation.  I was asked by Kristen Davis who is working with Mesothelioma Symptoms to share their link on our company website as a general resource. It is also beneficial to help get the word out about this potentially harmful insulation, which contained asbestos, which can be deadly.

So what is Zonolite? Zonolite is a brand of vermiculite insulation which was sold by W.R. Grace as attic insulation for millions of homes from 1963 through 1984, and is known to contain asbestos.  Zonolites vermiculite was taken from a mine in Libby Montana,which was found to contain high levels of asbestos, and closed in 1990. The dangers of asbestos is highly publicized, and a real health hazard.

Homeowners can easily identify vermiculite attic insulation. Vermiculite is a loose pebble like substance that is lightweight.  The color is most likely gray, as the color has changed over the years from the original golden or light brown.

What should you do if you have this type of insulation? Generally, the best advise is to leave it alone and not disturb it.  If the asbestos fibers are not released into the surrounding air, there is a minimal risk to exposure and the potential hazards such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. However, if your someone that regularly is in the attic, moving around boxes and stored items, you should be cautious, and not disturb the insulation.  Common dust masks will not prevent you from breathing asbestos fibers.  If you choose to replace the Zonolite insulation, professional help is required, and can be expensive.

There is a lot of news about Zonolite out there.  If you want more, you can see some here.  You can also visit the Mesothelioma site for additional information and resources.

And of course, if you are buying or selling an older home, make sure to have a qualified home inspector check the attic and determine the type of insulation in there.