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Winter Wisdom

This winter, prevent unnecessary costs with these five tips.

We’ve been lucky so far this winter, but a drop in temperature and an increase in precipitation like rain, sleet or snow can make winter costly at home.

Between turning up your heat and spending money on ice melt, the last cost any homeowner wants to account for is burst pipes and the damage they can cause. It doesn’t take much of a crack to cause thousands in repairs. A one-eighth-inch crack in a pipe can spew over 250 gallons of water daily, according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, destroying furniture, floors and personal items.

To help homeowners save this winter, Mike Pfeiffer, senior vice president of Technical Services at the International Code Council, offers the following tips:

Own Your Thermostat: Many households battle over what temperature to maintain. While the debate can get “heated,” Pfeiffer suggests keeping the thermostat setting constant. When it’s very cold and you keep changing the thermostat, it will be harder for your heating device to bring your home back up to your desired temperature. Programmable thermostats are a great way to maintain a comfortable temperature and save energy. Not only can you set them while you’re away, but smart thermostats will begin to learn your habits and gradually adapt to your desired settings.

Let Those Faucets Drip: When a cold snap pushes into the area, it’s a good idea to let water drip from the faucet. “Make sure it’s cold water when you do this,” Pfeiffer says. “Running cold water through the pipes, even a trickle at a time, helps prevent freezing.” This is especially true on exterior walls where there may be limited insulation. “Don’t forget about seldom used areas such as guest bathrooms or laundry sinks and equipment.”

Insulate: During winter you want to stay warm—well, so do your pipes. Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Seal up cracks and openings along the perimeter of your home where cold air can blow through and cause pipes to freeze. Insulation will maintain warmer temperatures in these areas and help lower heating costs. Be sure to check for exposed water lines in unheated areas and consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes, like an insulated pipe sleeve, heat tape or similar materials.

Open Cabinet Doors: When cold weather is in the forecast, opening cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathroom can help. This allows heat to seep into cabinets and circulate warmer air around plumbing.

Check Hoses and Sprinklers: Before cold air arrives, it’s best to drain any water from sprinklers’ supply lines following your manufacturer’s or installer’s directions. Don’t forget to remove, drain and store hoses used outdoors.

“Despite what you may have heard, don’t use antifreeze in any of these lines unless directed by a professional,” says Pfeiffer. “Antifreeze is environmentally harmful and dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife and landscaping. Not to mention that you cannot use antifreeze in any line connected to a potable supply.” Frost-free hose bibs are the best solution to prevent frozen pipes.

On top of these tips, make sure any home renovations use the most recent building and plumbing codes, which will help keep your family safe and also help you save money down the line on unnecessary repairs and maintenance.