Yes, you read that right. Those of us that were here during February of 2021 may have learned a lot about how to prepare for a “great arctic freeze” in the hills of Texas, but there may be some people out there that could use some reminders. The fact that freezing temps in this area are rare is the exact reason you may need to look this over when the temperature gauge goes south. But before we dig in… a bit about pipe insulation.
The single biggest concern for your home should be safeguarding your plumbing. Pipe insulation is available at pretty much any hardware store. It’s made of closed cell foam with a slit on the side so it just slips right over the pipe. It’s the best type of insulation to use. It keeps water out, preventing the foam from becoming wet. Just make sure you get the appropriate size foam for your pipe and get plenty to cover all of your pipes. Secure the foam with some zip ties or duct take, face the seam down or away from the wind and you’re good to go!
Protecting outdoor plumbing:
- Wrap any outdoor exposed pipes with foam, towels or blankets
- Remove all hoses from exterior water outlets
- Place protective foam covers over exterior water outlets
- In unheated areas, wrap outdoor and indoor pipes (like a clothes washer in your garage.)
- Turn off and drain your lawn sprinkler system.
- Heat strips can be used on pipes also, however, they require an available outlet. (These may be more relevant in northern areas where freezes happen more often and at greater lengths.)
Protecting gas pipe line:
If you have a propane tank that has an exposed line, you may want to cover it with insulation also. Again, this is only for extreme weather conditions, for extended periods of time. A day or two of freezing temps may not be cause for concern.
Protecting water wells:
- The best, first protection for any water well is to COVER it — like a small structure built around it.
- If your well is exposed, cover it with heavy blankets, plastic and secure it with zip ties or duct tape.
- If you do have a well “house”, put heat lamps inside.
- Insulate your well house or well covering if possible.
- There are also well covers you can buy that look like fake rocks.
NOTE: The pipe is more susceptible to freezing the closer it is to the ground and the smaller its diameter. Remember that it is not advised to drape blankets over the electrical control components or cover them with foam insulation.
Remember to hire a certified water well driller, pump installer, or plumber if you need work done on your water well, pump, or other associated equipment to ensure that it is done safely and in accordance with code.
Protecting indoor plumbing:
• Allow faucets to drip from cold and hot taps (just a trickle to keep water moving. It doesn’t need to be on full blast).
• If you leave your home before the temperature drops below freezing, but anticipate freezing temps, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve, leave the heat on and run the water from the faucets to release any water in the pipes.
• Open cabinets under sinks to allow the heat from your home to warm the pipes.
• For washing machines in unheated areas, shut off water to the washer and then disconnect and drain the inlet water hoses.
NOTE: If your pipes freeze, turn off the water at the shutoff valve. This prevents thawing frozen pipes from leaking into your home.
Protecting pools & spas:
Most modern pool systems have a temperature sensor and if temps get below freezing, the pump will kick on to keep water moving through the system. If your system is older, be sure to manually keep your pump on.
However, if you lose power, and freezing temps persist, you will want to turn off the power to the pool pump system, open up lines and drain the pool filter to avoid the water freezing and bursting pipes and/or your filter.
- Texas A&M AgriLife suggests watering all of your plants before the freeze.
- If possible, bring plants inside.
- If you can’t bring them in, move them to the south side of the house, water them, and cover them with mulch, leaves, or hay to keep the roots alive.
- Cover any outdoor plants with cardboard or cloth that is secured to the ground. Just throwing a blanket or sheet over it won’t provide adequate trapping of warmer air and will allow cold wind to get to the plant.
Protecting livestock during extreme weather:
If you are a land owner and have animals, invest in land-heated troughs to keep their drinking water from freezing. You will need electricity to heat the trough, but with a backup generator on hand, you can ensure your animals will have access to ice-free water. This is especially important as animals’ water consumption increases in very cold weather because of the elevated metabolic rates necessary to maintain warmth.
When preparing places of shelter for animals, create windbreaks in preparation for future cold weather and wind. This could include planting trees or taking advantage of natural land windbreaks, such as strategically placing pens where a hill will block the brunt of a strong wind. Good trees to plant to act as natural barriers include evergreen trees such as fir, pine and juniper, as trees without leaves during the winter are ineffective windbreaks.
In the rare event of a Texas snow storm, consider how snow will pile and drift under different wind or storm conditions. Plan ahead to know how you will gain clear access to gates, barn doors and roads if snow starts to pile up.
Protecting your sanity:
Anyone that was here for the “Freeze of 2021” would probably tell you. Make sure you have a back up plan if the power goes out. While winterizing your well-maintained home is the primary goal, there are additional crucial measures to take into account.
- Check your generator carefully, ensuring that it is functional and that you have enough fuel in case of power disruptions.
- Whether you have a water well or not, it is advantageous to have several sizable containers of potable water for home usage on hand.