Earlier this month, just one day after Denver's first cold snap of the season, I woke up and saw a new text message from my downstairs neighbor. She was writing to let me know no one in our small, six-unit condo building had water.
Immediately I feared the worst: The pipes froze overnight and burst, damaging the building and causing thousands of dollars in repair work.
After throwing on some warm clothes, I surveyed the basement and outside where the water enters our building. No burst was visible.
Relieved, we called a plumber, who for a hefty service fee was able to come out the same day and thaw our pipes. He also confirmed our pipes hadn't burst, and water was again flowing from our faucets.
Yet, with sub-zero temperatures forecast throughout the upcoming week, we knew we had to quickly act. Upon closer examination, we discovered that the insulation—which used to protect the space where the water enters our building—was gone. No wonder our pipes had frozen; nothing was protecting the pipes from the extreme cold!
The next few days provided a real test. The temperature hovered in the single digits, and the nights were bone-chilling cold. About a week later, Denver warmed to its usual wintery 30 degrees, and our insulating strategies proved successful...and cost-effective. By doing it ourselves, we saved the home owners association nearly $450—and the inconvenience of waking up another morning without water.
Chris Stewart is a senior communicator at DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which assists EERE in providing technical content for many of its Web sites.