Despite the low temperatures and resulting struggles of late (particuraily in the Northeast) , 2012 data remarks this year as the hottest on record (for many states). Still, even with reports of record "highs" throughout the country despite no new "lows", the daunting winter months lie ahead. For homeowners and property managers, this can be a stressful time of year; failed water heaters and/or burst pipes. We've put together this short list to help you prepare for 2013's arctic assault:
1. Know the heat thresholds!
Most states have different guidelines for heat and hot water within homes and apartments, from specfic temperatures to seasonal adjustments. Temperature Monitoring devices are perfect for detecting faults in room temperature. This chart from the NYC Department of houseing preservation and development illustrates a nice rule of thumb. During the winter months, homes should be kept above 68 degrees at a minimum. For hot water, a year-round minimum of 120 degrees farenheit is the baseline for New York dwellings. Propety managers need to make sure that they fall within state guidelines on both room temperature and hot water. For specific information on your state and law requirements, please check with the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development.
2. Monitor and insulate those pipes!
As winter brings the coldest temperatures to your basement, water pipes are of particular concern as the temperature drops. Air temperature in zones with delicate heating and/or water pipes must be adequately monitored to prevent bursting. Still, the question remains, when exactly does this become a concern? For southern states (and as a general rule of thumb, according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, 20 degrees farenheit* is the calculated threshold for pipe bursting. Be sure to monitor rooms with pipes closely when the temperature drops below 20 to prevent bursting
Quick Tip! If you suspect freezing in your pipes, run a faucet or drip from the sink to help relieve some of the pressure that may be building up within. Be aware that a 1/8'' crack in a pipe can leak up to 250 gallons of water a day!
Quick Tip! Double up on insulation. An exposed pipe is a hazardous pipe, and any further exposure to the elements can lead to bursting. Also, be sure to check for leaks or gaps between sealants. Cover all of the nooks and crannies! See our blog article on pipe bursting for more information and applicable solutions.
3. Listen and Respond: Your Occupants
Aside from our suggestions, we can't stress enough the importance of communication. For the property managers that may not always be on premises, your tenants will have the best feedback as to the real-time concerns of your building. Make sure to alert (and educate!) them to the potential hazards that cold weather can bring to their homes, and encourage tenants to address concerns or problems quickly.
Devise a two-fold strategy that relies on both technology and the human element for your property. Temperature sensors can alert you to major changes or potential problems for your property, a must for a remote owner. The human monitors ensure that no small problem goes unnoticed, and the incremental insight can help prevent an impending disaster. Check out our FREE E-Book for more tips.
*This threshold is based upon research conducted by the Building Research Council at the University of Illinois. Field tests of residential water systems subjected to winter temperatures demonstrated that, for un-insulated pipes installed in an unconditioned attic, the onset of freezing occurred when the outside temperature fell to 20°F or below. This finding was supported by a survey of 71 plumbers practicing in southern states, in which the consensus was that burst-pipe problems began to appear when temperatures fell into the teens. However, freezing incidents can occur when the temperature remains above 20° F. Pipes exposed to cold air (especially flowing air, as on a windy day) because of cracks in an outside wall or lack of insulation are vulnerable to freezing at temperatures above the threshold. However, the 20°F temperature alert threshold should address the majority of potential burst-pipe incidents in southern states.