January 11, 2011: No Water, Pipes Frozen

One of those things that homeowners absolutely dread, waking up in the morning to discover that there is no water flowing in your house… and that it is very cold outside.  Our pipes are frozen.  Contrary to popular belief, pipes can actually freeze in Texas.  Apparently, we have no discovered much to our chagrin, they freeze in Texas all of the time because no one does any planning when building their homes here and the pipes are neither insulated nor buried properly deep.  So this is just normal “business as usual” in Texas, we are told.

After living in the north, especially in icy New York for nearly all of my life, and having never even heard of a real person ever having their pipes freeze it is truly amazing to me that being here in Texas and being on a day when it is not even cold enough to need to wear more than a nice fleece to stay warm, that our pipes have frozen.  It isn’t like our house is cold either or that we are not home and using the water.  We ran water at two in the morning and it was fine then.  But by eight when I went to turn on the shower, there was nothing.  Nothing at all.

How, in Texas, on a day not very cold, in just six hours could our pipes freeze?

We gave the pipes an hour or two to warm up.  No luck.  We aren’t totally convinced that the issue is frozen pipes, but we are decently confident.  We called a plumber and they are coming out later today.  We also called the city, just to be sure that our water was not shut off on us.  It was not.  But the city of Carrollton told us that there were getting one call after another from people whose pipes had frozen.   Wonderful.

The plumber arrived pretty early on.  He inspected everything and, in the end, could find absolutely nothing.  He wasn’t even sure where our pipes came into the house!  He decided that they must come in in the garage and told us to heat the garage.  At least we have a place to start.  Of course, we have no way to heat the garage so that is going to be a challenge in and of itself.

So once the plumber left my first task was to head out to Lowe’s to pick up a workshop space heater.  I ran out and found that the store had had rather a run on space heaters.  I managed to find a little shop space heater, a yellow and black Stanley unit that seemed like it might meet out needs.  There were very few heaters of any serious power available so it would have to do.

On the way home I stopped at McDonald’s to pick up lunch for the family as without water we really can’t be creating dishes because we have no means by which to clean them and if we end up in a protracted water outage situation then having dirty dishes lingering about is going to be a very bad thing indeed.

Brian came up not long after I returned from Lowes.  We decided that the little space heater wasn’t going to heat anything and that the garage was still below freezing.  Argh.  So we ran out to Home Depot, which is really just a block farther away than Lowe’s, to see what we could find.

We managed to find, for just $99, a forced air heater – what I grew up calling a salamander.  There was a larger kerosene model like my dad uses in the barn but I opted for the smaller propane model.  It is still rates to heat 1,250 square feet which, in a pinch with unnecessary rooms closed off, is enough to heat the entire house.  Since we are only using it to heat the garage which can’t be more than five hundred square feet it should be quite dramatic overkill, in fact.

As we were leaving Home Depot, I ran into Dwayne while in line to check out.  He started asking about the frozen pipes and he felt that what the plumber had said could not be the case so he said that he would come by and take a look at it for me since we were right around the corner.

Dwayne was over for at least half of an hour, maybe an hour.  He did tons more than the plumber did.  He took all of the water meters apart, tried heating in the ground pipes, went through the garage, did all kinds of tests inside and out and managed to determine that the issue was not in the house but outside somewhere.  He also positively identified that the city was most definitely providing water to us so that could not be the problem.  But, we were not able to get the water back on.  We just know more about what is wrong.

Brian was over during the late afternoon and we ended up working on some phone stuff before packing up and driving over to Watson’s house tonight for a meeting.  Originally people were going to be coming over to our place but without any water than seems like it would be a very bad idea.

It ended up being around two in the morning when I finally got back from the meeting.  It was pretty productive, though.  And nice to get out and hang out with the guys too.

So in the end, no water for today.  Fingers crossed for tomorrow, but looking at the forecast it looks as thought there is unlikely to be enough heat in the air to get us out from under being frozen until Thursday at best.  There is some hope for tomorrow but not very much.

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