How to keep your pipes from freezing, busting

Kent County

KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — The owner of a Kentwood building that houses a closed laundromat found out the hard way just how costly burst pipes can be: The bill’s going to be about $40,000 when all is said and done.  

The problem was caused by this week’s glacial temperatures, which are going to be a continuing problem: Storm Team 8 says it’s going to be below freezing every day for the next week.

While the damage at the laundromat was in a commercial building, it could just as easily happen with the pipes in your home.

“If they’re not wrapped, they’ll just freeze. And once they freeze, the ice will expand the pipes and then break them. It’s all downhill from there,” said Brad Brown, a technician with Penning Plumbing and Heating, part of the crew working to fix pipes in the laundromat Friday.


The most obvious way to prevent a burst pipe is to make sure it’s getting heat. Keep temperatures in areas where the pipes are located above 55 degrees. If a pipe is near an outside wall, open cupboard doors to let additional heat circulate.

Opening up a faucet and letting a thin stream of cold water running — like officials in Kalamazoo are asking of residents — will keep water running and prevent ice from forming.

Heat tape and pipe insulation can also prevent problems.

“There’s a lot of things at your hardware store that you can buy, or if you’re not experienced, you don’t know how, you can call your plumber,” Brown said.

>>Online: Tips to prevent freezing

Prevention methods may be money well spent. Figures released by State Farm show that in 2018, the insurer paid out over $13 million for what it calls winter water losses, including from ice dams and frozen pipes, in Michigan. That’s more than in any other state. The average cost of a claims was around $22,000.

That doesn’t include the headaches that go with cleaning up.

“It’s a long process. It can be nasty,” Brown said. “A few inches of water in the basement, then you get insulation that plugs the floor drain and then the water can’t drain. It’s a mess.”

Compounding that mess can be panic at a burst pipe, which makes some homeowners forget to shut off the water at the meter and stop the flood.


From preventing frozen pipes to heating the house when the furnace conks out, space heaters are a popular alternative source of heat. But you need to check them out before you plug them in.

Grand Rapids Fire Department Lt. Bill Smith showed 24 Hour News 8 a space heater that had a damaged electrical cord that sparked, causing burn marks on the unit. Fortunately, someone was nearby to unplug it and it didn’t cause a fire.

“This is really a safe type heater to use, but you always have to check to make sure your equipment is safe,” Smith said. “This one just happened to have a bite in the cord and it shorted.”

Another big mistake is leaving space heaters too close to combustibles, like curtains or even walls. They need to be placed at least three feet away from anything the heat could ignite.

>>Online: Fire prevention tips

Electric space heaters use a lot of electricity, so Smith said you also need to make sure to avoid overloading the electrical system.

“Make sure your circuits are sound, that we’re not using an extension cord for a heater. They should be direct plugged into the wall outlet,” Smith said. “If you’re trying to warm up the space, that’s fine, but make sure you’re doing it safely. Once you’re leaving, turn the unit off and even better yet, as I do as safe practice, I unplug my space heaters.”



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