Frozen pipes a winter hazard

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Copper pipes, mobile and old homes likely culprits

AMHERST – Cold weather can mean burst pipes.

“There’s been a few (calls),” said George Chapman, who’s been a plumber for most of five decades.

Chapman said one scenario he encounters is people who turn down the heat to save oil – a plan that backfires when pipes burst and a call to a plumber needs to be made. It’s cheaper to burn a bit of extra oil, he said.

The plumber encounters some circumstances more often than others. Frozen pipes are often made of copper, and mobile homes can be susceptible to freezing; depending on the design, the wind gets under the floor.

Peter Bickerton said he hasn’t received many calls for burst pipes. He agreed that mobile homes can be candidates for freezing – sometimes the insulation isn’t as good or the heat tape fails – as well as older structures, which let in drafts.

“They’re just not as tight,” he said.

If pipes do freeze, getting warm air on them is the way to go. Bickerton said hot towels are a waste of time. Chapman recommended a hair dryer. The latter said he’s heard of someone starting a fire in their place trying to heat a frozen pipe.

“I won’t get into that,” he said, humour evident in his voice.

The plumber said he wasn’t responsible for the incident, but he did reveal a paint-stripping heat gun neglected for a few minutes was the culprit.

“You have to be some careful,” he said.

Amherst’s fire chief, Bill Crossman, said it’s been several years since they’ve had a call related to a pipe-warming gone bad.

“We’ve had that in the past…we used to get them, probably one a year.”

The chief said a hair dryer or heat gun is the preferred way to warm a pipe, not a torch.

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