Thursday, January 23, 2014

Polar Vortex Risk Management

While much of the country continues to shiver from Polar Vortex v2.0, the biggest risk most of us are thinking about is frostbite and slipping on the driveway.

Or perhaps our pipes freezing [ed: from a strictly utilitarian viewpoint, the gentleman was successful].

But there are really a number of other severe weather risks about which we should be aware, and for which we should be prepared. Courtesy of FoIB Bill M and the fine folks at Auto Owners Insurance, here are few key Polar Vortex-related risks:

Ice Dams: these are "accumulation(s) of ice at the lower edge of a sloped roof ... [as] interior heat melts the snow on the roof, the water [runs] down and refreeze(s) a the roof's edge." This, of course, leads to a build-up of ice and creates major drain blockage which could end up forcing water into your walls and ceiling.

How to mitigate this risk: make sure your attic is well ventilated and keep the floor of the attic insulated.

Freezing pipes: as mentioned above, a blow torch (while effective) is not recommended. Water is funny: it expands when it freezes (perhaps you've noticed this phenomenon in your freezer's ice tray). When the water in a pipe freezes, it can expand so fast and so much that it breaks (bursts) the pipe.

How to mitigate this risk: insulate exposed pipes with special (and inexpensive) foam sleeves. You should also seal any cracks in outside walls, and keep cabinet doors open so warm air can circulate. Don't forget to keep a slow trickle of water going, especially on lines that pass through exterior walls.

Oh: a hair dryer beats a propane torch if you do have a frozen pipe (really!).

Be safe, and stay warm.
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