Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Plumber Mark Larkin knows better than most people the amount of damage a frozen pipe can do to a home in the Las Vegas Valley.
Once several years ago, Larkin, who owns Larkin Plumbing, remembered a customer whose home became iced over when a pipe in the attic burst while the family was away for winter. Another home transformed into an ice rink after a bursting sprinkler pipe shot water through the homeowner’s door.
Every year, there are people who forget to wrap their pipes during a cold spell. Typically, water in the pipes freezes and expands, causing the pipe to burst and front yards to flood. It can run a homeowner up to $600 to repair the pipe, not including any other damage caused by the flooding.
In January, Larkin responded to about 400 of these calls during a stretch of subfreezing temperatures. Despite the recent cold snap, though, Larkin’s freeze-related business has been quiet. He’s received about 40 frozen pipe calls this month, but there is a lot of winter left.
“Our typical job is $250 to $450,” Larkin said. “It’s more than what a customer needs, especially when they could just wrap a towel or sleeping bag they haven’t used in 15 years on the pipe.”
While winter is a loose term for what most of Las Vegas experiences, there are still brief stretches of freezing temperatures that require some preparation by Las Vegans.
The first step, Larkin suggested, is for people to wrap all their pipes exposed to the outdoors. Homeowners with swamp coolers should also turn off and drain those devices, and people with pools need to make sure the pool pump runs overnight to prevent freezing.
“The pump needs to be on and circulating water,” Larkin said. “Otherwise, water will freeze and either break the pipes or when they turn the pump on, it will burn up if water’s frozen.”
People can still use their sprinklers during a freeze as they normally would, Larkin said. The Southern Nevada Water Authority, however, cautions that residents are allowed to run their sprinkler systems only one day a week from November through February.
So far, Kris Williams, a customer service representative at Service Plus Plumbing, said people appear to be taking the necessary precautions during the cold streak. The company serves hundreds of homes and business across the valley, but it has only received about five weather-related calls during the recent cold weather.
“I’m pretty impressed with the people who have been able to perceive what happens and take care of it,” Williams said.
Larkin said people who survived the cold spell without frozen pipes should be safe after today as temperatures are forecast to heat up into the mid-50s. Still, when wintry weather does return, Larkin encourages people to take a few minutes and wrap their pipes.
He knows what it can do to a home.