Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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01/12/2005: "Life is full of unexpected "opportunities""

So I drove home tonight, freezing in sub-zero temps with no car heater, get home and try to make some coffee and guess what? No water! Turns out my pipes were frozen. At this point I felt seriously like getting in the fetal position and going to a "safe place".

I own my house so I can't just take a valium and go to bed, I have to deal with it and it sucks sometimes. I called my friend Bea who wasn't sure if I could wait until morning to call a plumber, so I called my friend Jim who's good with stuff like this and always giving me useful advice. He walked me through a bunch of different tactics to determine the origin of the freeze, I took my parabolic heat fan down into the 3' crawl space and positioned it at the location it comes in from the ground. I also took a few cracks on the pipe with a hammer (as per Jim's advice) and fixed droopy insulation, located a spot that has a shoddy soddering job but not a big problem (yet) and fixed a couple external vent flaps that got torn off in that last big wind storm.

After about an hour and a half of crawling around on all fours breathing fiberglass particles (and hoping not to find any of Holly's lurking couch shrimp) the water magically started running again!

So, no expensive plumbing bill I can't afford and I actually feel pretty good about the fact that I now know I should leave my faucets running when it gets below zero, plus I know a lot more about the layout of my crawl space, pipes and all that. If I hadn't gotten his help I would have waited until tomorrow to deal with it and he said that's the worst thing to do, because the longer you leave frozen pipes frozen, the worse the problem becomes with pipes potentially bursting etc.

So, not too terrible in the end. Thanks Jim!

And for those of you thinking I should know about freezing pipes since I live in Alaska, try to remember that Douglas is in a temperate dicidouse rain forest and normally the winters are very mild:

Here are some weather facts:

Juneau average annual precipitation is 92 inches per year.
Juneau average annual snowfall is 101 inches per year.
Juneau average temperature is 55 degrees F.
The average winter temperature is 25-35 degrees F.
The average summer temperature is 45-65 degrees F.
(although we had weeks of temperatures in the 80s last summer)

Replies: 3 Comments

on Thursday, January 13th,">Jackie said

E: Another little tip from a former resident of the temperate rainforests of Kodiak: heat tape is inexpesive, and fairly easy to install. Wrap heat tape around the pipe where it enters your house. It needs to be plugged in - so you'll either need a long extension cord - or a plug-in in your crawspace. Unplug in spring, re-plug in fall.
And yes, leaving a tap running while you're out and at night, when it's sub-zero, is helpful as well.

on Thursday, January 13th, Elise said

Thanks for the suggestion Jackie. A couple of people mentioned heat tape but I didn't know what that was. I'll check it out.

on Friday, January 14th,">Jackie said

E: Heat tape is an insulated wrapping - looks kinda like a space blanket, or sometimes a flattened extension cord, which is flexible, with a power cord running through the middle. This contains heating elements. You wrap it around the pipes, and plug into a power outlet. Sort of an electric blanket for your pipes.