Laura Zoeller

Fighting through the freeze

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I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but this winter has been cold. Also, more than four feet of snow has been recorded since our first snow last fall, and that stinking groundhog said we have several weeks of winter left to go. (No groundhogs were hurt in the writing of this column. Yet.)


Due to both the frigid temperatures and the ill-timed snowfalls, our school district – as well as dozens of others in the area – have either delayed the start of school or canceled it altogether over a dozen times since the beginning of 2014. We are out of makeup days and are tacking them on in June already.


I may have complained once or twice (all right, every time someone will listen!) about the cold weather and how I hate it. But, I know most of you will commiserate. I have seen on Facebook multiple references to wrecked vehicles, furnace failures, power outages and frozen water lines. It has been a wicked winter. On the plus side, there hasn’t been much global warming rhetoric lately.


For our part, frozen pipes have been a constant struggle for the past six weeks. You see, our house was built circa 1894, if the date pounded in nails into our barn can be taken as any indication. It was built with beams and wooden pins, not boards and nails, and rooms being square was not a consideration because the roof overhead was more about survival and less about aesthetics. It makes remodeling and repairing things a delight for my husband. (Please note the sarcasm.)


A few years ago, when I convinced him that a laundry room on the first floor was wise, he had to use a hammer and a chisel to notch out a foot-thick beam to make room to run plumbing. Though he insulated the pipes, they are near enough to the outdoors to be affected by the sub-zero degree temperatures we have received.


After we discovered that the hard way, we attempted to buy heat tape to run their length, but we only needed 3-footers, and those were sold out at every store we checked. So, we decided to order some online. Many of those retailers were out as well, but I finally found two tapes and placed the order. They took nearly three weeks to arrive, during which time we spent numerous hours both working to prevent freezing and also thawing frozen pipes.


They arrived this week, and my husband was more than happy to open the package and prepare to install them. His look of elation quickly disappeared as he told me they wouldn’t work for us. It seems that, very near to the plug is a thermostat of some kind that won’t allow the heat tape to work unless it reads less than 50 degrees. There being no outdoor outlet on the wall where the tape is needed, they must be plugged into a basement outlet, where, I am happy to report, the temperature far exceeds 50 degrees.


For the time being, we will muddle through and pray for winter’s end. But come spring, we will find a way to ensure that this doesn’t happen again next year. That would be an honest delight to both my husband and myself.



Laura Zoeller can be reached at zoeller5@verizon.net.


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