Freeze & Thaw: Bad Mix For All
State Farm® Announces Top Ten States for Frozen Pipe and Winter Water Losses
A new year and winter season ushers in a reminder about winter weather awareness for frozen pipes and ice dams.
Each can become a large concern for destructive water and structural damage.
From August 2022 to August 2023, State Farm paid out over $806 million for over 32,000 claims from frozen pipe and water damage. Claims averaged $25K. During that same time from 2021 to 2022, State Farm paid $181M for only approximately 9,000 claims.
Georgia was the #1 state for these losses with $100 million in claim costs. This was followed by Illinois ($78M), Tennessee ($62M), Texas ($58M) and New York ($45M).
Due to the annual variability of wild to mild weather patterns, frozen pipe and ice dam losses can vary each year. No two years are the same and are often significantly different. When weather patterns drastically fluctuate and impact areas that are not used to sudden temperature drops, the result can be catastrophic.
Pipes that freeze and then subsequently burst can cause damage far beyond what the average policyholder imagines. Frozen pipe and ice dam damage can destroy drywall, roofs, foundations, floors, toilets, electrical systems, and personal items. Repairs can take weeks or months to complete.
Tips to help prevent pipes from freezing:
The three central causes of frozen pipes are quick drops in temperature, poor insulation and thermostats set too low. You can prepare your home during the warmer months.
- Insulate pipes in your home's crawl spaces and attic, even if you live in a climate where freezing is uncommon. Exposed pipes are most susceptible to freezing.
- Use heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables to wrap on your pipes. Be sure to use products approved by an independent testing organization, such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc., and only for the use intended (exterior or interior).
- Seal leaks that allow cold air inside near where pipes are located. Look for air leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents, and pipes, and use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out.
- Disconnect garden hoses and, if possible, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets.
- Let warm water drip overnight. A trickle of hot and cold water might be all it takes to keep your pipes from freezing.
- Keep your thermostat set above 55 degrees, even when on vacation or extended periods away from home.
- Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to un-insulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.
What do to if pipes freeze:
Pipes don't always burst when frozen. A few things to keep in mind if they do:
- Call a plumber if needed. If you turn on your faucets and nothing comes out, leave the faucets turned on and contact your plumber.
- Avoid applying flames to thaw pipes. Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame because it could cause a fire hazard.
- Consider a hair dryer as a possible heat source (with caution). You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe using a hair dryer. Before you start, see that you are not in or near standing water or near flammable materials. Start by warming the pipe as close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe.
- Shut off the water supply. If your water leak detection system has already gone off or your pipes have burst, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve in the house. See that everyone in your family knows where the water shutoff valve is and how to open and close it. Be sure to leave the water faucets turned on.
Ice Dam Prevention DOs and DON'Ts:
When the temperature in your attic is above freezing, snow on the roof will likely melt. When the snowmelt runs down the roof and hits the colder eaves, it refreezes. If this cycle repeats over several days, the freezing snowmelt builds up and forms an ice dam, behind which water pools into large puddles, or "ponds". The ponding water can then back up under the roof covering and leak into the attic or along exterior walls. The right weather conditions for ice dams are usually when outside air temperatures are in the low 20s (°F) for several days with several inches of snow on the roof.
- Be sure that insulation in the attic space is adequate for your location.
- Verify soffit and roof or ridge venting exists for all roof planes and that soffit vents are neither blocked by attic insulation nor covered by roofing finishes.
- Verify all penetrations, access panels and electrical fixtures are properly sealed and insulated to prevent heat and moisture from entering the attic space, while maintaining manufacturer's required clearances.
- Verify all exhaust fans and dryer vents are discharged to the outside.
- Keep gutters clean of leaves and other debris. This will not necessarily prevent ice dams, but clean gutters can help drain away ice melt as it makes its way to the gutters during a thaw.
- Follow up a short-term ice dam remedy with determining and fixing the actual cause to your ice dam problem. Consult a trusted and competent professional.
While it might be tempting to try a quick fix to break up that ice dam and chip away, don't get too eager. Not only is it dangerous on your roof, but you can also cause a lot of shingle damage, especially in the colder months.
- Install large mechanical equipment or water heaters in attics, especially in cold climates. Not only do they present an unwelcome fire hazard, but they'll also increase the temperature in your attic.
- Routinely use salt or calcium chloride to melt snow on a roof. These chemicals are very corrosive and can shorten the life of metal gutters, downspouts, and flashings. Runoff that contains high concentrations of these chemicals can damage nearby grass and plants.
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