Right about now, you may be thinking more about checking into a nice resort for a long weekend getaway rather than checking up on all the pipes and duct work in your house. But, in the middle of this stormy winter, it’s a good idea to take a look before you go, so the house is in perfect working order upon your return!
Pipes and ducts are your home’s veins and arteries, allowing water and air to flow where they’re needed, nourishing its life-space. With the extreme winter weather Central Indiana is experiencing, a DIY homeowner doesn’t want to take any chances with frozen water pipes that could burst, or energy-depleting leaks in furnace duct work or dryer vents so full of lint; they could start a fire. Below are a few ways to alleviate the stress, so your home can relax.
FROZEN WATER PIPES
The moment you notice that a water pipe is frozen, try to unfreeze it using a heat gun. If you turn on a faucet and nothing comes out, it’s an indication to act quickly. No matter what the pipes are made from, PVC plastic or copper – both kinds can freeze:
- Where they’re not insulated
- If located along an outside wall
- Underneath a cabinet usually kept closed
What to Do:
- Locate the freeze. Feel along the pipe for cold spots.
- Open the hot water side of the faucet, if the hot water line is frozen, and vice versa. Opening the offending faucet can help to alleviate pressure in the line.
- Move the heat gun steadily along the pipe. Depending on where the frozen pipe is located, a hair dryer or a heater positioned closely can also do the trick.
- Leave the faucet open for several minutes when water begins to run again, to clear away any ice. Turn the water off and inspect for damage or leaks.
- In the case of a leak or burst pipe, shut the water off at the main valve.
- Patch the leak or hole, then replace the pipe.
Protect Your Pipes
- Let Faucets Drip – before temps drop low, open faucets of pipes prone to freezing enough to let water drip slowly. The continuous flow is the best prevention.
- Insulate – water pipe insulation is inexpensive and readily available at your local hardware or at your local home supply center. The round lengths can be cut to size and slipped over a pipe using a slit along one side.
- Install Heat Tape – considerably more expensive than insulation, heat tape is wrapped around exposed pipes and plugged into a household outlet. Follow manufacturer’s instructions.
FURNACE DUCT REPAIRS
The furnace, the thermostat and the duct system – together, they deliver heat throughout your house, so you want them working at peak efficiency. Age and unnoticed damage can cause any one of these workhorses to stumble. You’ll most likely need to crawl under the house, but it will be worth it.
What to Do:
1. Conduct an inspection, either by yourself, or hire a licensed HVAC contractor to do it for you. Turn the furnace on, so air can move through the ducts, making it easier to hear and feel any leaks. Bring a powerful, cordless light and follow each duct passage from the furnace to its end. Mark any areas needing repair with flagging tape, so you can find them easily later on.
- Look and feel for loose joints, gaps in fittings or duct boots.
- Note where support straps are missing or sagging, which impede airflow.
- Find areas where insulation is missing and where the ducts are resting directly on the ground, which can also cause moisture-related problems.
- Inspect the large sheet-metal box attached to the top or bottom of the furnace where the ducts originate, called the plenum. Make sure it’s fully insulated and all ducts are well sealed at the connection points.
2. Make repairs. A basic repair kit includes a hammer, tin snips, utility knife, cordless drill, some short sheet-metal screws, a roll of metallic foil duct repair tape and duct strapping.
- Repair loose joints in solid sheet metal ducting using sheet-metal screws, then seal with foil tape. Flexible ducts typically use a clamp system to secure joints. Sometimes the original clamp can be reused; otherwise, use a large worm-drive or flexible plastic clamp to secure, re-wrap insulation and seal.
- Attach duck strapping to a solid support using nails or screws, and secure the ducts up off the ground.
3. Insulate the ducts using R-8 or R-11 insulation – in cold climates as well as warm, so heated and air-conditioned air is not lost.
DRYER VENT CLEANING
While you keep up with your family’s endless laundry, lint keeps building up in your dryer and venting. Just cleaning out the lint filter before every load simply isn’t enough to alleviate this condition, dangerous enough to start a fire, or worse. Experts say a full load of wet clothes contains about a half gallon of water. Lint is created from the clothes as water is removed during the drying process. This lint builds up deep down inside the lint filter trap and all along the dryer vent hose. Warning signs of danger include:
- Clothes take longer and longer to dry
- Clothes don’t fully dry
- Clothes are hotter than normal at the end of the drying cycle
- The dryer exterior gets very hot
- Low exhaust velocity is apparent outside at the exhaust vent flapper
- The laundry room gets very humid or a burnt smell is evident
What to Do:
The best defense is a good cleaning of the entire dryer/vent hose/venting system, and for this you may want to purchase a special dryer duct cleaning kit, which includes a set of brushes made especially for this type of cleaning. However, a good vacuum and attachments, along with some cleaning brushes can work in a pinch. Try using a long handle 20″ gong brush or long handled scrub brush.
- Unplug the dryer and pull it away from the wall.
- Remove the lint trap filter, remove the screen by pulling it straight out and clean it gently with a fine bristled brush.
- Vacuum the lint trap-housing cavity, where the filter goes. Extend a brush with a long flexible handle all the way into the bottom of the cavity. Then, twisting gently, pull out the brush with the clumps of lint. Repeat until no more lint is revealed.
- Disconnect sections of dryer vent and remove lint build-up on the sides with a stiff brush at the end of an extender using circular motion. Repeat on all vent sections, until they are free of lint.
- Reassemble dryer ducting, plug in the dryer, move it back in place and replace the lint trap filter.
Good luck with all your DIY in-home repairs – you’ll be glad you took the time! And as always, if you have questions or comments please utilize our section below or the contact us page on our website.
About the Author
Jack Runyon is the president of Runyon Equipment Rental. He has 21 years of rental experience, as the 3rd generation son to carry on the family tradition and his grandfather’s vision. He prides the company for its devotion to ethics, quality products and customer service. Jack is known for his passion and vast expertise.