Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Stupid Cold Weather and the South


In addition to the blizzard that dumped up to an inch of snow on the area, shutting everything down for two days (and some people are still trapped at home because there has been no snow removal on side streets), it has also been stupid cold.

This has me flip-flopping on my kitchen remodel plans. The first few days of this stupid cold weather (and the cold bothers me far, far, far more than the snow), I was thinking that I might as well go ahead and remodel my kitchen because this cold weather made me less likely to want to move back to the north. But then as the cold snap has gone on longer and longer, I find myself thinking that if I have to deal with this ridiculous weather anyway, I might as well move to the Boston/Cambridge area. And if I'm going to move, then there is no reason for me to drop tens of thousands of dollars on my kitchen. (For those keeping track at home, repairs and remodeling done on the house so far have exceeded 1/3 of the purchase price.)

Now that I am starting to acclimate to the cold (and I have started wearing my fur coat every time I go out -- when you wear a bulky fur, you understand why old ladies drive Cadillacs), what is most annoying to me is the mis-information that keeps being spread on my neighborhood email list about frozen pipes.

Letting the faucet drip will not stop your pipes from freezing. (Maybe if you left the water running, it might help. But dripping, not so much.) Rivers freeze. Go ahead, search the internet for "hudson river frozen" or "charles river frozen" or "mississippi river frozen." Moving water can, and does freeze. Even brackish rivers freeze if it gets cold enough. What the dripping faucet does is to allow for pressure to be released when your pipes freeze. When the pipes freeze, the water expands, and this pressure is what causes the pipe to burst. By having the faucet valve open a bit, when the ice expands, it pushes the water on the faucet-side of the ice out through the open faucet instead of having that water press out against the pipes.

I'm lucky that most of my pipes run through the middle of my basement, far from the walls, and that my poorly insulated house keeps the basement temperature well above freezing. (The house is less poorly insulated than when I bought it though. One of these days I should deal with weather-stripping the doors and doing something about The Window That Does Not Close All the Way Because the Sash and the Opening Are Different Shapes.) The water line to my kitchen sink runs up along the foundation (as the sink is on an outside wall) and is at risk of freezing. I have wrapped that sucker in pipe insulation and stuffed a bunch of the pink stuff around it. Seems to have worked. They also sell pipe-warming kits where electrical resistance keeps the pipe warm.

But I really, really, really want my neighbors to stop telling everyone that letting a faucet drip is a magic charm against frozen pipes. It isn't. It just improves your chances at keeping frozen pipes from bursting.

Depending on the weather on Monday you may find me in my office looking for jobs in the Boston/Cambridge area, jobs in San Diego, or for an architect/designer who will tell me how to spend tens of thousands of dollars redoing my kitchen.