by Charlene Burgi
A conversation among friends yesterday had me awake in the wee hours this morning. The discussion centered around wrapping presents. In my dream state, however, the thoughts focused not on wrapping gifts, but water pipes! Just before I went to bed, the newscasters had foretold of temperatures plummeting into the teens here in Lassen County.
But strangely, my midnight musings were not about the ranch here but haunting memories of freezing temperatures experienced in years past in Marin. You might ask, why the concern wouldn't be as great in snow country? The outdoor hose bibs we use in Lassen are constructed differently than those found in Marin. In the middle of the frost-proof pipe is a type of plunger that pushes the water down below the frozen ground so the pipes don't burst. This type of assembly eliminates the need to wrap the pipes.
In Marin, where winter temperatures are a bit warmer, regular hose bibs are the norm. However, winter temperatures in Marin are known to drop below freezing. Those low temperatures can cause exposed hose bibs and water pipes to freeze and burst, resulting in water spewing freely until the water is shut off and the pipes are repaired.
| Pipe insulation
There are several things you can do to prevent those nightmares. First, wrap pipes that are exposed to the outdoors. The hardware stores carry a foam insulated tube that slides around pipe. After wrapping, secure the slit in the foam using duct tape to hold the foam in place. This simple procedure takes just a few minutes.
If you have a backflow device on your property, cover it with a special blanket made for protecting the device from freezing weather. If a backflow blanket is not available, an old blanket or sleeping bag will work equally well.
If your pipes do freeze and burst, you'll want to turn off the water promptly to prevent water waste and damage to your property. Hopefully, whoever installed the irrigation or plumbing on the property installed a shut-off valve after the meter. If you can’t turn off the water yourself, call MMWD’s 24-hour emergency line at 415-945-1500 and we’ll send someone to turn it off at the meter.
If you find you don't have a shut-off valve after the meter and another where your irrigation valve system begins, it's worth installing them. This step will save you time and trouble over the long run, allowing you to work on any future plumbing or irrigation problems without the need to turn off water to the entire property.
Be prepared for those cold winter nights so you won't be awakened by thoughts of wrappings that do not constitute gift-giving.