Ep. 67 | Tips To Avoid and Cure Frozen Pipes

On this episode of The Mobile Home Park Lawyer, Ferd touches on the extreme winter weather that we are seeing in parts of the country and gives us some tips to help avoid and cure frozen pipes. Enjoy!



0:00 – Intro
1:20 – Ferd mentions how most people find summer the hardest time of year for MHP but he finds Winter harder
3:21 – The key to protecting your MHP pipes is preventative care such as heat tape to insulate the pipes
4:34 – For mainlines, heat rods are useful to keep the line warmer below the surface and insulated skirting can also be useful
4:59 – Ferd recommends having lots of extra supplies on hand
5:50 – Torpedo heaters are a key supply
5:59 – Ferd gives us advice on what actions to take if your torpedo heater freezes
7:24 – You should have diesel thinner on hand as the diesel can freeze and turn to gel
8:11 – Ferd recommends you send a notice to the residents, to let them know about freezing temperatures and asking them to let their faucet drip
9:11 – A heat gun is another tool you can use to get to tricky/hard to reach places
9:27 – Another preventative method is to pour salt down the drain
12:14 – Ferd emphasizes the importance of having enough laborers and taking care of them so that they will be there for you in a pinch
12:27 – “Lead from the front”, get out there and get your hands dirty every now and then to show some leadership for your team



Welcome back mobile home park nation. I’m here tonight in balmy Kansas City evening. And I’m not enjoying the winter wonderland we got here. I’m actually dreading what I think to be is the worst part of the mobile home park business and it’s frozen pipes. And cold weather. I’ve heard some people say that winter is easy, because you don’t have to worry about as much trash or parties or, you know, lawn mowing violations. I wholeheartedly disagree. I actually like being out in the parks in the summer. In the winter, depends on the weather, but man, we’ve had quite the February here in the Midwest, and I think pretty much nationwide and I’ve got clients in the south that have never even seen snow and their pipes are freezing. And the furnace is out and the electrical grid is out, frankly. So tough times here as a nation because its extreme weather. I guess the global warming theory is still up in the air, but I guess I’m no scientist, so don’t quote me on that. But it sure feels cold here for February.

Anyway, I thought, rather than just gripe, and complain about the weather, I’d maybe try to teach you something today. What can you do about frozen pipes or preventing frozen pipes. I wish I would have done this a month or two ago. We’ve had a pretty good preventative system in place for a number of years now but honestly didn’t work as well as it normally does. This year sure it was a lot and got some broken pipes and you know, broken water meters and clogged water lines, clogged sewer lines, etc. And I know I’ve got some clients that had a lot worse than me where their contracts are getting dropped, their entire infrastructure systems are failing. So definitely a serious issue. So today I’m going to dive into just what can you do to prevent frozen pipes. And if you don’t know, I mean, obviously it freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but it really doesn’t. The pipes don’t start to freeze until considerably colder than that, like the low 20s at least in my experience. We had minus 30 degrees on Monday this week, it was pretty brutally cold.

So first off, the key here is preventative care. This is stuff like heat tape. You know licensed installers are supposed to put heat tape on the water lines and insulate them and have a quality underbelly. The underbelly is you know the underside of the mobile home. Between the joists, there’s insulation, there’s some sort of tarp or underbelly structure that holds insulation in place and you’re supposed to tuck those lines up underneath the belly. And the portion that’s exposed between the floor and the ground is supposed to be insulated with insulation and heat tape. For your water meter, you can get what are called water meter jackets. They basically look like little Styrofoam coolers that go around your water meters. We’ve honestly not used a lot of those, hadn’t had problems with the water meter. Typically the water meter is the last thing to break if you get a good quality water meter. We like the Metreon meters that are kind of plastic but they’re porous. So they expand a little bit. We’ve had a lot of the brass ones in the past and you can get freeze plates on the bottom which are supposed to freeze first. But we had more problems with brass ones freezing. And you know there’s other brands out there that I’m sure work too, just have kind of found one that seems to work for us overall.

Another thing you can do for your main lines, you know your supply lines up into the home, underneath the earth, you can have a heat rod that will basically keep them the line warmer below the surface. You can have insulated skirting. And some of that’s pretty popular up north. I’ve actually never bought any, never really been a problem, this year has been the first year we’ve had substantial freezes.

And then everything I say you want to do is have supplies on hand. Lots of extra stuff. I mean, this year especially I had, I don’t know seven or eight salamander heaters nearby. And I needed a dozen, and I went to go buy some because they die, one got stolen. You need more for more houses. And I went to Home Depot, they were out. I call, I look at homedepot.com there was a 10-day delay nationwide. Amazon, same thing. I ended up finding the only used salamander heater on Facebook, and I had somebody drive three hours away and go get it. They found one at Ace Hardware that kind of fell through the cracks. And only one I could find in the region had somebody drive from four hours away and go get it. I mean that’s how bad we wanted a salamander heater. So that’s a key supply. And some people call them torpedo heaters basically they are, you can get them in propane, we typically get them as kerosene or diesel. So that’s another tip here and what if they freeze? Well, if they freeze, you want to make sure you get your supplies ready. So if they do freeze, you assess the problem. Is it the mainline? Hopefully not, is it the water meter? Water shutoff for the home in the supply lines, hopefully, it’s not in the home and again in the water heater, that would be a problem. And if it does freeze, you want to turn on your faucets so that the pressures release. If you do defrost and water expands, as it freezes so that it becomes ice, it’ll blow the lines. But if the faucets are on full blast at that point, it may blow a little chunk ice into the sink, and I’ve had that happen and it’s not that big a deal.

You want to use your salamander heaters too, underneath the home you know make sure do it safely, avoid catching the skirting on the home, skirting of the home on fire. So don’t put it, you want to remove several pieces of skirting. You want to angle it at an angle that’s not facing up towards the home, you want to make sure it’s kind of down. I like the heaters that are on wheels. I like to have numerous going at once at least two per home. And they run on kerosene, which kerosene seems to run out first and the whole community here is out of kerosene. So we switched to diesel. And diesel works fine also, except my car hearts smelling completely like diesel now because it gets everywhere. With these little nozzles and funnels, they try to have you used to fill these things. And it was so cold this year that we had the diesel freeze, I didn’t even realize like it happened to be honest, it turned to gel. So we had to get some diesel thinner to mix in there to basically keep the fuel from freezing up in my salamander heater. And again, it’s very important to avoid catching the home on fire. I’ve heard of that happening. We never had it happen with a salamander, we had it happen once with a guy was cutting the tongues off with a blowtorch and you know, use a blowtorch, and hits the plastic skirting whole front of the house caught on fire. A world-class idiot this guy was. You know you can use a soft for that or you know a skilled welder can weld them off. But he decided to use a blowtorch.

And so back to preventative care, I am getting out of order here but it’s my show. Notice the residents. This is important. We tell people to inspect their own in the fall, we actually went around this year and inspected it personally ourselves and found lots of heat tape and outlet plugs and things like that, that were not working. And we tell them through notice hey, let the water faucets drip, we put a little poster sign up by the entrance, freeze warning, let your faucets drip. And we tell them to open your cabinet doors and your sinks that allows the heat from the home to get under the sink and into the cabinets where it’s a little colder because it does face the exterior of the home. And then keep your heat about 60 degrees, which seems obvious. But I mean, some people, unfortunately are tight on funds. So they suck it up in the winter and they just have it 52 degrees in their house and wear coats. I mean literally sleep in coats and stuff. That’s not going to help on the water heater or on the waterline issues.

So those are some preventive tips. Preventive care notice to resonance, and then again back to if they freeze, I mentioned salamander heaters, those are really all I like to use. But some people use a heat gun or a blow dryer. And heat gun can work a little bit. And if it’s in an area, like on the riser or somewhere that’s hard to get to with the salamander, you use a little gun. Those salamander heaters just work. They’re just, they’re a lot faster. And I’ve also heard people pouring salt down the drain. I’ve actually never done that. But it makes sense. I mean, salt lowers the melting point, or lowers the freezing point, I guess I don’t know which one it is I didn’t really do that well in science class. Actually I did okay, but that was like 30 years ago. So try the salting, my kid probably knows that better than me.

One thing that I took for granted a little this year was having laborers ready. And we had a lot of guys ready to rock and they were out there, you know, and I appreciate them. They’re out there sucking it up, and it was miserably cold. But I didn’t have enough, and I didn’t have enough tough guys. And we were doing shifts, you know go out there it’s minus 15 degrees minus 20 degrees. Sit there for two hours then you go sit in the truck for five minutes. The next guy goes for two hours or you go get a sandwich, you go to the bathroom, you get the inside job, you know doing something to plug it in and or you’re walking around. And we had a couple of guys break for lunch and never come back. We had another guy he was driving from one site to another site about 40 miles away. You know had some vehicle problem spun on the ice a little bit didn’t get hurt or anything, just said nope, not for me. Turned around, went home back to the first part right where he lives. Didn’t call in right, didn’t show up the next day, didn’t show up the next day, just gone. The guy’s been with payroll for a year and a half. I mean, just not for me. Another guy just came up one day handed his keys to the house and said I didn’t sign up to this. So it’s tough man. Man, we were paying guys time and a half during the week and double time on the weekend because it was a seven-day job. And we had guys out there till 11:30 at night, several nights, I was out there myself taking a shift on Valentine’s Day. But we needed to get it done and manpower was light.

So I really felt a little bad for the parks that do not have park-owned homes, which in general, a lot of people say nobody wants park-owned homes. I’ve got park-owned homes, in most of my parks. And where I’m at here in Kansas City, we got two parks, about 140 lots, and this market. And I don’t know 35 or 40 park-owned homes. And as a result, I got full-time maintenance here, I got a couple guys. And I was more prepared. If I had 200 lots but no park-owned homes. I’d likely have like a guy that mows the grass and a professional that plows snow. And I would have had nobody who was ready to jump under a trailer with a salamander heater on Sunday from 8 am till midnight. So can’t emphasize enough, have your labor’s ready, take care of them. It’s still going to be tough sledding, as they say in the Marine Jag Corps, or in the Marines in the military in general lead from the front. And I think that’s a little bit of hey, let’s go as opposed to hey, get moving. And that means getting out there in the field once in a while get your hands dirty. Just to you know, stay humble, stay fresh, but also to show some leadership so your team that in mind the tough sledding ahead that they have to do.

Anyway, important topic. Never more timely. Well, I guess 30 days ago would have been more timely. My bad. Sorry, not sorry. But anyway, God bless, Good night. Stay warm.


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