frozen – not the disney version

photo Chicago 2


It’s baaaaack….

Winter that is. Somehow we managed to escape Chicago’s typical icy blast until this week.Lucky us! We now have to face the inevitable reality of living in this climate, and the effects that extreme cold weather has on our buildings.

One big consideration is preventing pipes from freezing.The Red Cross suggests a few small steps to take during this weather that could help avoid big problems later:

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

For the full article, see Red Cross:

Clearly, more thorough actions can and should be taken to further avoid frigid weather problems as much as possible. Proper insulation is key, but just as important is air sealing at any exterior wall penetration. Tom Decker, President of Chicago Green Insulation, Inc., states “It’s shocking how small the holes in an exterior wall can be to allow enough cold air to create burst pipes”.  He relates the story of a client who had $250k of damage in a $2.5 million home because a simple void left around a pipe on an exterior wall was never sealed. The house was only one year old and had an upgraded fiberglass insulation package – but no air sealing was done!  While the client was wintering in warmer climes, they set their thermostat lower than normal.  The reduced temperature combined with the cold air transferring through the open hole in the wall produced enough of a chill to cause pipes to freeze and burst.  When the client returned from their vacation, an expensive mess awaited.  Their basement was destroyed along with a lot of ruined belongings – including the electronics in the “Man Cave”, climate controlled wine room, and custom finishes.  Tom lamented that pennies worth of insulation to seal the exposed hole could have avoided the entire mess.

An ounce of prevention…

The lesson here is that a good time to evaluate your property is now. This can easily be done with an energy assessment, revealing any exterior wall penetrations that should be sealed, and point to any additional areas of thermal vulnerability in your building. This includes better insulation.

Mike Wenzel of Advanced Energy Services, LLC conveys that many people who built or remodeled their homes in warmer seasons chose to opt for less expensive, less effective forms of insulation in order to save a little money for something seemingly superfluous at the time. Now these folks clearly understand the value of better insulation, and are spending even more money to improve what they thought was a cost-effective choice at the time. In terms of the economics, Mike says, “Weatherizing your home is the most direct route to improved comfort, energy efficiency and increased home value.” Truly, in our climate, there is no better, more immediate ROI.

This information is really only the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of what you can do to safeguard your property this winter. If you would like more information, please contact our firm.