How to Thaw Out Frozen Water Pipes

Thaw Out Frozen Water PipesThe recent cold weather vortex that has descended on Canada and the United States has caused many homeowners to deal with frozen pipes. Once a pipe freezes, there is no water for even basic necessities. Especially if it is the pipe near the entry point to your home. If you are lucky the pipe will thaw at some point. The water will flow once again without any leaks. At the very worst you have a serious water leak. If the water is not shut off immediately, it will cause major flooding and damage to your home. Homeowners can take precautions to avoid frozen water pipes. Once you have a frozen water pipe, the question remains about how to thaw out frozen water pipes.

How to Thaw Out Frozen Water Pipes

Whatever you do, do not use a blow torch. There is tremendous danger in starting a fire which can quickly get out of control and actually burn your house down. Every year there are stories in the news of someone doing just that. Your home owner’s insurance may not cover this kind of catastrophe which would be huge.

Avoiding a frozen pipe in the first place is obviously the way to go, however, we will cover that later in this post.

First, if your pipes are frozen, i.e. there is no water flowing you need to take action immediately. If you can quickly identify the area where the pipes are frozen, turn up the heat in the area immediately to thaw out frozen water pipes. Install a portable heater in the area as well. It may take a few hours, but the pipes will eventually thaw. If there is a specific area and you can get to it, sometimes a hair blower will help to thaw the pipe.

Check for Obvious Breaks

Check for any obvious areas like the one in the picture. A leak like this one can quickly cause a great deal of water damage. In addition to warming up the room, shut the main water pipes off and then cut out the area and repair it. You may need to call a plumber to make these repairs.

It is much more difficult to thaw out frozen water pipes inside walls are much more difficult. Any pipe that is on an outside wall is a candidate for being frozen in very cold weather. With insufficient insulation and a cold interior room, these pipes can quickly freeze and crack the pipe. Look for signs of water damage and then open up the wall where the pipes are. You will have to repair drywall etc. however finding the leak is of paramount importance. Keep the rooms that have water pipes in outside walls warm to help thaw the pipes. Again a plumber may be needed to make repairs.

Check with your home insurance company to find out what coverage you may be eligible for.

Avoiding Frozen Water Pipes

If a cold snap is imminent and you are concerned about pipes freezing, turn up the heat. Focus on those rooms with water pipes on outside walls. You will spend more energy heating the rooms, but this is minimal compared to dealing with the damage from leaking water pipes, etc.

Anytime a wall is opened up either move the water pipe to an inside wall or make sure that it is adequately insulated for the most extreme temperatures you will experience in your area. Keep your furnace running to keep these rooms warm.

Many frozen water pipe situations occur when furnaces fail or the electricity is out for an extended period. If you’re going to be away from your home for more than a few days, shut the main water valve off to avoid any water leaks while you are not there. Have someone check your home every few days to make sure the furnace is running and your home is heated. They should also know what action you would want them to take if there is no heat in your home. i.e. call a furnace repairman, plumber, etc.


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When to Hire a Snow Removal Contractor

When to Hire a Snow Removal ContractorNow is the time to consider hiring a snow removal contractor. With winter just around the corner, many people are thinking about that awful job of clearing snow from their driveways. They wonder, should they check on their old snowblower to see if it’s working? Or should they contact a snow removal contractor to arrange for snow clearing during the winter?

My neighbor has done this. He loves to stand in his front window drinking his coffee while the contractor clears the snow off his driveway! But other than economics when should you hire a snow removal contractor?

When to Hire a Snow Removal Contractor

When it comes to cost it is simply cheaper to buy your own snowblower and clear the snow yourself. The cost of annual contract times the number of years that you will use a contractor will be far costlier than buying your own snowblower.

However, there are other reasons why many people consider hiring a snow removal contractor. One reason that many people hire a snow removal contractor is simply time. They just do not have the time to spend clearing snow early in the morning before they go to work or after they arrive home so they can get the car in the driveway.

Another reason is health. This is a major issue and should be taken seriously. If you are not the type to do routine work around the house and stay in shape then clearing snow could be dangerous. Many people suffer heart attacks after shoveling snow.

Even if you do use a snowblower there is always some snow that you have to clear by hand. If you are a coach potato, bite the bullet and hire a snow removal contractor now. It is just not worth it to take a chance with your health.

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Should I Purchase a Snowblower

Should I Purchase a Snowblower It is that time of year again when winter is just around the corner. Many consumers are wondering should I purchase a snowblower? Perhaps their existing snowblower is no longer working or needs a major tuneup. They might have been resigned to shoveling snow. They see their neighbors hiring snow removal contractors and enjoying not being out in the cold weather shoveling heavy snow. There are a number of issues to consider before you decide to purchase a snowblower. The same applies if you will hire a snow removal contractor. There are some cost-saving issues to consider as well as ease-of-use and health issues. In this post we will discuss some of the issues associated with a decision to purchase a snowblower.

Should I Purchase a Snowblower

Cost – this is simple. What is the annual cost of snow clearing vs. the cost of a reasonable sized snow blower? In most cases the snow blower will pay for itself in two or three years.

Features – make sure it is easy to handle. Lights are nice but in most cases not that useful . One handed steering and control are!

Storage – you should really have a place to store it inside. It not only protects it, but no one wants to dig out a snowblower so they can use it.

Repairs – can be pricey, however your machine should last much longer than the payback period vs. hiring a contractor

Operation – make sure it is easy to use. This includes starting, handling and maintenance. You should not need to manhandle your machine while clearing snow.

Repairs – replace belts, change engine oil, grease the auger, and change the spark plug once and a while. Be ready to do these things yourself to save money

Ease-of-use – we mention one handed use and control several times. If you can do this with the machine you are buying you will enjoy using it.

Health issues – if your health is not good just hire a snow removal contractor. It is not worth risking further injuries!

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Emergency Preparedness for Winter

Emergency Preparedness for WinterWhether it is bitterly cold weather, huge snow storms, or winter rain storms, winter can bring a variety of weather to us that tests our ability to survive. We can think about emergency preparedness for winter and take the steps necessary to protect ourselves. We can all lessen the impact on our lives. In our last post about getting ready for winter, we listed a number of areas for consumers to consider. In this post, Emergency Preparedness for Winter, we are going to focus on the emergency side of the question. Emergencies are when you have no power, no water, and no way to get to safety. What do you do now to make your life easier in these situations?

Emergency Preparedness for Winter

Water -without electricity the water supply may not work. Cooking, cleaning, washing, etc not to mention water for drinking will be in jeopardy. Make sure you have enough water stored up to supply your needs for several days unless you feel there is a chance that the outage will last longer.

Food -The same applies to storing food that will not deteriorate without refrigeration. Dried foods, although not that exciting are easy to store and will keep you from going hungry. You also do not need electricity either to prepare it.

Electricity – an electric generator is a handy thing to have if your power goes out often and stays out. Gas-driven hookups are required to ensure that you have enough electricity to run the basics can make the difference between an uncomfortable difficult period and one that is just ok. Make sure that the generator is always situated outside and that you have sufficient gasoline to run your generator for a few days.

Lights – candles, flashlights, batteries, or at least wind-up flashlights are a necessity. Your generator may provide enough power for a few lights, but you probably want to run the fridge on it to keep your food fresh. Have sufficient candles and dry matches for longer periods of darkness with no electrical power.

Heat – If you do not have a wood-burning fireplace, you need to develop a plan to heat your home if the power will be off for a long period of time. No electricity means your furnace does not work and your electric heating does not work. Using propane heaters indoors can kill you so do not do that either. Running a gas generator outdoors and connecting it to the furnace and the fridge are probably the two main priorities. Make sure it generates sufficient power to handle both.

Don’t forget Evacuation Plans

Evacuation – if there is a chance that you will need to evacuate, have an emergency pack ready, make sure the car is full of gas, and know your escape route. Don’t wait until it is too late to get out. Leave early to avoid road congestion or blockages.

The above are the basic necessities to consider to get ready for any emergency. You need to assess what the worst thing is that will occur and then prepare for that situation. Since this particular post is focused on winter conditions, you may have to adapt it somewhat if you are concerned about flooding or high winds for example at other times of the year.


Get Ready for Winter

Get Ready for WinterIt is not too late, there is still time to get ready for winter and avoid sudden emergencies on the coldest day of the winter. We put together a shortlist of items that homeowners may want to consider in the fall to get their home ready for winter. Feel free to leave comments about these items or others that we should consider adding to the list. These are the bare bones basic items that every homeowner should think about, even apartment dwellers will find this useful, particularly if you are susceptible to power outages from storms in your area.

Get Ready for Winter

Your Furnace – on the coldest day of the year your furnace or boiler is going to stop working and you find yourself worrying about freezing pipes etc. The repairmen are all overwork because thousands of people have the same problem. Have your furnace checked now and also cleaned to increase your odds of having s failure-free winter.

Snow Blower Engines – Start it now, make sure you have fresh clean gasoline in it. Change the oil to get it ready for winter. Don’t wait to that first snowfall to find out that it won’t start or needs major repairs. It is so much easier to deal with these issues when it is still warm outside.

Emergency Power – A gas-powered generator may be the one item that provides you with peace of mind in a power failure situation. If your electrical supply system is prone to failures you may just want to invest in a gas powered generator. Install the proper hookups to power your emergency devices.

Emergency Supplies – this includes everything from nonperishable food, to flashlights. Include jugs of water to help deal with no power for an extended period of time. Flashlights are good to have, as are candles and matches. Just make sure candle flames are protected and reduce the risk of fire.

Freezing Pipes – if the power does go off and you have to leave, make sure you know how to turn the main water supply off and drain the pipes. You can reduce a great deal of water damage by taking this simple step.

Leaving Your Home

Evacuation – if this is a real possibility where you live, then make sure that your vehicles are never on empty. Always have at least three-quarters of a tank of gas in your vehicle to enable a fast getaway. You avoid having to get in a long line of cars and trucks to buy gas.

Remember that it is all about preparedness and self-survival. The first responders cannot get to everyone immediately. It may take days for them to make it to your home!


Do It Yourself Landscaping

Do It Yourself LandscapingAny time of the year is great for do it yourself landscaping. But spring is the time when most people get started with their own landscaping projects. It is springtime in May and it is time to start landscaping your backyard and your front yard. Many people wait for the long weekend in May to do this work. The weather has turned and it is much warmer and there will be no chance of frost. This is Victoria Day for Canadians and Memorial day for US citizens. This is the traditional time for the northern US and Canada to start their gardens. They also touch up any landscaping work they wish to do.

There are many stores that offer topsoil, mulch, and many different types of flowers and shrubs. Also vegetables for planting in your garden. There are so many choices that sometimes it is very difficult to make a decision. As you can see by these pictures that we took at Lowe’s, there are literally hundreds if not thousands of different colored flowers and shrubs. They can be picked up for your garden and your pots around the house. We enjoy this time of year because it is time for renewal and updating your yard.

The May long weekend is one of the most popular days.  Consumers go out and buy all kinds of flowers and soil and shrubs. It is also the busiest time for the garden centers. It is almost like Christmas for them with so many people shopping. Everyone needs to be patient and take their time while they try to dodge people with their carts. Shoppers are just looking around and not paying attention to where they’re going. But one of the best things about shopping at this time is that many of these garden centers have great sales. In fact, we found mulch at Lowe’s that was at half price compared to other stores offering the same kind of mulch and the same size bag.

Do It Yourself Landscaping – Shopping

The weekend after the long weekend is another great time to shop. As we mentioned the long weekend and the time leading up to it is Christmas season as far as the garden season goes for these garden centers. After that people get interested in doing summer things and enjoying the warm weather. Sales drop off and if there is inventory left, many of these stores will offer great sales at this time. You can find any number of products at half price and lower depending on the item. Some customers will purchase things like mulch at half price or lower and keep it in the garage or garden shed for next year. If you have a place to store this stuff it is a great time to save some money.

By the way, we really like mulch for our gardens when we are doing it yourself landscaping. It makes the job of weeding easier because there are fewer weeds to start with and secondly they cannot get a good hold with their root systems. They are very easy to remove when you have about an inch of mulch on the ground around your plants.

Another good reason to use mulch is that it helps to retain moisture for your plants and prevents the ground from drying out. Your plants will do far better when you use mulch in the gardens. We use mulch in all of our flower beds for these reasons and it happens to look nice as well. A nicely edged flowerbed with some of your favorite colored mulch looks great. We like to use cedar mulch which comes in brown, natural, red, and black coloring. Personally, the brown cedar mulch works best for us, but many people purchase the other colors as well.


Space Heaters for Your Home

oil filled space heatersLast month we did a post on Heating with Electric Ceramic Space Heaters and we wanted to follow-up with another post because we just saw this same heater at a reduced price at Cosco for $39, down from $69! This particular heater has not only a thermostat on it, it also has a built-in timer so that you can set the start time and the finish time. They are perfect for bedrooms when you want your room to be warm when you go to bed and then turn off sometime during the night.

My wife just loves this heater, since our bedroom has always been cold and now she finds it far more comfortable. Before we purchased this heater, we had to crank up the thermostat so that downstairs was too hot , just to get a bedroom to a proper temperature. You can read more from the original post at the following link:

We are very happy so far with this particular space heater. Set the thermostat, set the time and plug it in, your done. It is that easy and the only time you really have to check on it is if the power goes off and the internal clock must be reset. It is also on wheels so if you need to change the position of the space heater, it is very easy to do. Simply unplug it and mover it to another location and plug it in again.

Positioning of Space Heaters

Regarding positioning of the space heater, the instruction booklets indicates that it should be placed under a window. Cold air from the window is descending to the floor and moving across the floor normally. With this heater in place, the air is heated as it falls and begins to rise again. No more cold drafts with the heater placed in the correct position!

I almost purchased a second space heater of this type to go in one of the bathrooms. Wouldn’t it be nice to walk into a really warm comfortable bath room in the morning? At $39 we are seriously thinking about buying one more just for the bathroom. I have a second smaller ceramic space heater for my den to keep my legs warm in the morning. Now before you think I am some kind of softy, this is all about comfort while saving some money at the same time which is what this web site is all about.

We turn the heat down at night now to save energy and use these space heaters to heat just the room we are in. Sometimes I will get up really early before the furnace comes on to warm the house up. I have this small space heater in my den. I make a coffee, close the door to the den and turn on this small space heater. Within minutes, I am very comfortable and warm. We save a lot of energy this way and avoid those higher heating bills.

Reduce Energy Costs

Reduce your overall heating costs, while at the same time remaining comfortable in the rooms you work in most of the day. Why heat the entire home, when you are only in one room? If I was by myself, I would definitely consider just heating the rooms that I spent the most time in. I would turn down the thermostat on the central heating system and just heat the rooms I use most of the time during the winter.  This would save on the overall heating costs during the winter, plus provide me with comfort when and where I needed it. No need to keep a big house warm all of the time.

We love to hear from readers about other ideas for saving money and staying warm in the winter time. Leave us your comments and if they are constructive and informational we will be happy to post them. If you leave a constructive well written related  comment, we will even give you a link back as well.



Swimming Pool Closing for the Winter

In our last post, we said we would provide more detail about Swimming Pool Closing for the Winter. Here it is. Please note that we are going to assume that the weather during the winter is well below freezing and therefore you need to take special Swimming Pool Closing for the Winterprecautions when closing your pool. These instructions are also for an in-ground swimming pool, however, for above ground pools, you can follow many of the same steps.

We have added some details to the steps in our previous post. If they do not apply, just ignore them. Of course, we cannot be responsible for your pool, since every installation is a bit different. Above all use these instructions along with the detailed instructions you received from the pool company you deal with.

Swimming Pool Closing for the Winter

  • Clean the pool and make sure that the water is clear, that there is no debris or dirt in the pool
  • Back wash your filter in the usual manner to make sure it is also clean
  • Using the attachments that come with the pool, lower the water level below the return lines
  • Once the water is below the return lines, shut the pump off and disconnect the hoses you used to lower the water
  • If you have a main drain, plug the line coming from the main drain in your pool. Usually you place an 18 inch long foam rod into the line at the skimmer and screw in the plug
  • Make sure you use plumbers tape on the plug so that it provides a watertight seal

Remove All Water From Lines

  • Blow the lines using a shop vac to get all of the water out of the lines
  • Make sure every drop of water is removed from the lines to the pump and the lines back to the pool.
  • Plug the lines so water cannot get back in and freeze using the plugs provided and plumbers tape
  • Drain all water out of the pump and the filter
  • Remove all plugs from the pump and the filter, the pressure gauge and the glass water observer attached to the filter
  • Place the filter control in the winter position
  • Cover the pump and filter to protect them from the elements if they are not enclosed in a shed
  • Place Styrofoam in the skimmer to absorb the expansion of the ice and in the pool around the skimmer
  • Place chlorine and algaecide  in the water to prevent the build-up of algae
  • Remove ladders, diving board, and any other attachments and store them for the winter
  • Cover the pool to protect the liner from UV rays, dirt and leaves
  • Fill your water bags and place them around the pool on the cover to hold it in place
  • Shut the power off to the pump to avoid it accidentally being turned on
  • I also remove the pump and take it inside to protect it from winter’s elements


This is a pretty good list for most pools. However if you have heaters such as a gas heater or a solar heater, you will need to ensure that they are also drained properly and prepared for winter storage.

It is really important that all of these steps are completed properly. The most important of course is to ensure that all of the water is drained from the lines, the filter, and the pump to avoid freezing and cracking of any of these things. Also, you want to make sure that water cannot get into the lines during the winter. This will be equally bad and cause you a major headache next spring when you try to open your pool.

Doing this work yourself can save you a lot of money. This is the point of this blog. However, if you are unsure or uncomfortable with closing your swimming pool, hire a professional and book early since everyone wants their pool closed at the same time. No one wants to keep operating their pool when it is cold waiting for the pool guy to show up!

We welcome comments and hints about closing pools for the winter. Spam comments will be deleted. For more information about seasonal money-saving ideas, click here.


Closing Swimming Pools

I just closed my swimming pool for the season. For some readers this may seem early, however I live in eastern Ontario, Canada and the season ends pretty quickly Closing Swimming Poolsaround the beginning of Sept. The weather is still nice, but really it is not fun swimming when the air temperature is starting to cool off. Some people seem to enjoy swimming when the air is cold and the water is warm and heated by a pool heater. Closing Swimming Pools, it is time to do it. However we do not enjoy this and besides it is a huge waste of energy. If you live in the southern US or even in Southern Ontario, you can get another month of swimming in.

Closing Swimming Pools – Do It Yourself

Consumers can save a lot of money if they maintain their own swimming pools and open & close the pool each season. However it is important to do it right. If you don’t a lot of damage can be done to your pool over the winter months. If you are going to do it, close your pool properly. Even if this means hiring a pool company the first year to watch and learn how they do it will save you money in the long run. Make notes if you need to and follow instructions from the pool company.

Closing the pool is a sad day, since it means winter is coming with cold and snow. We still have a few months before that happens and we must enjoy the fall as much as we can. I am digressing here so back to the main point about closing your pool.

In our next post, we will explain in detail how to close a pool. However there are a few points we want to emphasize here to ensure that your pool is not damaged during the winter. If the temperature never gets below freezing then you really do not have to be as concerned. With temperatures well below freezing in Canada during the winter, we have to take extra care in closing the pool.

Here is our list.

  • Lower the water level below the return lines
  • Blow the lines to get all of the water out of the lines
  • Plug the lines so water cannot get back in and freeze
  • Drain all water out of the skimmer, the pump and the filter
  • Place Styrofoam in the skimmer to absorb the expansion of the ice
  • Cover the pool to protect the liner from UV rays(your liner will last for many years longer if it is protected from the suns rays when it is closed for the year)
  • Place chlorine and algacide  in the water to prevent build up of algae
  • Shut the power off

More Details

This is a basic list, however if you plan to do all of this yourself to save money there is a more detailed list. After all this is what this web side is all about, check for our next post for a detailed list of steps to follow in closing your pool! Some readers would rather hire a professional company to close and open their pools. This saves them a great deal of work and they also know that the pool is closed properly.

Many readers will keep their pools open until mid October. They use a gas or electric heater to keep the pool water hot enough to swim in. Some people find swimming in cold weather very exhilarating. We are not part of that group. We end up closing our pool earlier than some of our neighbors, but that is just fine with us. My family would not use it anyway. After September 1 the water is just too cool for us along with the weather. I guess we are fair weather swimmers.

Comments are welcome and appreciated as long as they benefit our readers. Spam comments will be deleted. For more seasonal related projects around the home, click here.


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