1:5:10:365 EcoTip Blog

January 28, 2009

2009 Ice Storms

Here we go again. over a million people are without power due to ice storms across the Midwest stretching down into Texas. Ice storms are a huge problem for buildings constructed in areas where they are not common.

One of the things that is happening is warmer temperatures in the outer atmosphere mean there is more moisture. When this moisture condenses it begins to fall as rain. If surface conditions are below freezing, the rain drops freeze and become ice. When upper atmosphere temperatures are cold the water falls as snow not rain. Snow is less damaging since it weighs about 1/10th as much as ice.

In addition to the power outages – we should anticipate an increase in building roof collapses. Steeper sloped roofs are better equipped to deal with this extreme weather where at least some of the ice will generally slide off. Flat roofs tend to accumulate the ice and are more likely to collapse from the load.

Some areas have been reported to already have about 6 inches of ice with another 6 inches potentially falling in the next 24 hours. Twelve inches of ice on a roof weighs about 60 pounds. That is a huge amount of weight for a roof since many roofs in areas that are not commonly exposed to the weight from ice and snow have been built to hold a minimum of twenty pounds. 

We should also anticipate problems with frozen plumbing and ice dams.

For more information about these topics type the following key words into the search engine for this site (right hand column) do one search at a time: ice dam, plumbing, thermal imaging, roof, can light, frozen.


If you need help with damage – the  IICRC is the place to go for a referral to a specialist in these types of problems. The following is from their web-site:

The IICRC is a nationally accredited, non-profit certification body that works to protect consumers from deceptive and unreliable companies in the cleaning, restoration and inspection industry. IICRC-Certified Firms and Technicians must meet the highest industry standards to maintain their good standing.

IICRC offers water and flood damage tips at http://www.certifiedcleaners.org/ts_tips_advice.shtml you can use their directory search to help find a certified firm or call 1-800-835-4624.

John Banta is the author of Extreme Weather Hits Home: Protecting Our Buildings from Climate Change.

November 7, 2008

:312 Protect Plumbing

Filed under: :312 Protect Plumbing — Tags: , , , , , , , , — John Banta @ 4:37 am

Take the 1:5:10:365 challenge: Do one thing – for 5 to 10 minutes – 365 days a year to make our home and planet environment better.

1:5:10:312 EcoTip: As winter approaches its time to double check your plumbing insulation to be sure it is protected from freezing. Insulation should be in good condition and not have been pulled back away from the pipes. Rodent damage to insulation is another common cause of exposed pipes becoming frozen.


 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :218

The following excerpt is from my book – Extreme Weather Hits Home: Protecting Your Building From Climate Change.

In his book Water in Buildings, Architect William Rose tells us that according to the insurance industry the greatest losses from freezing weather conditions don’t occur in parts of the country that commonly freeze. “The claims come much more from the southern United States than from the northern states. Texas and Florida were highest on a per capita basis; Minnesota was the lowest. We can attribute this to the surprise factor — Minnesotans build such that freezing pipes are unlikely, whereas southerners may be caught by surprise by an unexpected cold wave. … Insurance companies paid around $4.5 billion in the 10-year period 1985-1995 in claims for pipes bursting”

Frozen pipes, ice dams, heaving foundations and overloaded roofs are all rare conditions in the north where people are prepared for them, but become epidemic when very cold weather hits the southern parts of North America. Plumbing installed in southern states is rarely insulated and frequently has some point where it comes above ground such as water shut-off valves and entry points into the building. Furthermore it’s common for buildings in the same general vicinity to be constructed similarly so when failures occur they tend to be repeated at the neighbors’ homes as well.

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October 30, 2008

:304 Surge Protection

Take the 1:5:10:365 challange: Do one thing – for 5 to 10 minutes – 365 days a year to make our home and planet environment better.

1:5:10:304 EcoTip: Rather than merely surge protecting your computer – consider having a whole house surge protector installed at your breaker panel to help protect your whole house.

Source: NOAA


 Additional Information:

Suggested Review:

The following is an excerpt from my book – Extreme Weather Hits Home – Protecting Your Building From Climate Change

My family moved to Prescott, Arizona, in the late 1980s. Our home was a two-story on high ground near the middle of town. The public utility lines for our home ran along an alley at the back of the property. A transformer on the power pole served our home and our neighbors on either side. Arizona is known for some spectacular summer lightning storms.

Since the power poles were clearly the highest point in the vicinity, I was concerned about lightning strikes. Shortly after we moved into the home, I had lightning surge protection installed at the service panel for our home. Within that first year it proved to be a wise decision.

While our youngest daughter was in the bath one summer evening an unexpected lightning bolt (literally out of the blue) hit the power pole transformer at the back of our yard. Plumbing is typically grounded to the earth, but that does not always guarantee that the lightning will dissipate harmlessly. The house shook, the power went out and the transformer caught on fire, but in spite of my daughter being in the tub she was fine.

Many additional strikes quickly followed with brief but heavy rains, typical of Arizona summers. The rains, fortunately, extinguished the flames from the power pole. Other than no power for a few hours and the fried lightning protector that we had recently installed, everything else was

Our neighbors weren’t so lucky. The neighbor on one side had their refrigerator and some small appliances blown out. The neighbor on the other side had their television’s picture tube explode sending sparks into their living room. This lightning was probably a type known as “anvil to ground lightning” since the strike originates in the anvil-like head of thunder clouds. These lightning strikes frequently occur without warning well ahead of the main thunderstorm. This firsthand experience convinced me that lightning and surge protection were important additions and had probably saved our electrical appliances and possibly my daughter’s life.


Lightning flowed through the plumbing and electrical system and fried this laundry sink. Courtesy of www.lightningrodstuff.com

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September 18, 2008

:262 Clean and Dry

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet environment.

1:5:10:262 EcoTip: Before reconstruction after flooding can begin – it is critical that the indoor environment be clean and dry. If its not clean there can be organic material that results in odor problems or bacteria. If its not dry mold can develop and materials may degrade. You can’t tell if many types of construction materials are dry by touch – it is important to confirm they are dry using a moisture meter.


 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :256, :257, :258, :259, :260, :261,

This is the seventh in a series of EcoTips about protecting oneself when remodeling and working around buildings when participating in disaster recovery such as occurred with hurricane Katrina and is going on now with Ike. This information is timely since 2008 is the most active hurricane season since 2005 and many buildings are being damaged.

The following is from my book Extreme Weather Hits Home. I am discussing the reconstruction process in Key West Florida after hurricane Wilma in 2005:

Storm surge-damaged gypsum board and insulation can’t be saved, so in most of the buildings I looked at they had been removed shortly after the water damage occurred to allow air drying of the remaining wood framing or concrete block that is commonly used for construction on the island. In those buildings where it had not been removed, the gypsum board was falling apart, full of mold growth, and smelling horribly from the bacteria and dead sea life that hadn’t yet been removed and disinfected.

In the cases where the residents quickly removed and discarded the water-damaged gypsum wallboard, they simply left the wet wood framing in the homes exposed to allow natural air circulation for drying. What I found surprising was that even after three months of air drying the wood framing materials and furring strips had a wood moisture content greater than 30 percent. It became apparent that mechanical drying using dehumidifiers and air circulation would be necessary to get these buildings dry enough for reconstruction. Experience has shown that if the wood surface is exposed to air circulation it is rare for mold to grow even if the center of the wood still has elevated levels of moisture. Fortunately, leaving the walls open and not rushing reconstruction avoids the problem of mold growing.

One of the big problems I observed while in Key West were homes where the gypsum wallboard and insulation had been removed and replaced with new materials while the wood still had these elevated levels of moisture. These homes began to grow mold on the paper of the brand-new gypsum wallboard materials.

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April 8, 2008

:099 Weak Garages

Suggested Review – :098

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

1:5:10:099 EcoTip:  The attached garage is usually one of the weakest parts of a home. This is because the large garage door is poorly supported in comparison to other areas of the house. When strong winds, tornados, hurricanes, floods or earthquakes hit the unsupported garage door, the weakness makes it easier for the walls to collapse. The garage roof falls and can pull the roof for the rest of the home along with it.

Tomorrow I will discuss bracing garages for greater duribility


Additional Information

The information in this post has been taken from my new book – Extreme Weather Hits Home.

Extreme Weather Hits Home, Protecting Your Buildings From Climate Change


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February 7, 2008

:038 Emergency Weather Radio


Source: http://www.weatherradiostore.com/

1:5:10:038 Tip: Purchase a NOAA Emergency Weather Alert Radio.

There are many types of extreme weather emergencies that are being monitored by NOAA with emergency broadcast alerts. An emergency weather radio silently monitors these broadcasts and can be set to automatically come on when an alert is issued in your area allowing your family to brace for the recognized extreme weather event.


Additional Information

A wide variety of emergency weather alert radios are available from http://www.weatherradiostore.com/ for under $50.00

A note from John Banta: I had originally planned to post this 1:5:10:365 tip on February 26 prior to tornado season beginning, but decided to post early due to the recent spate of tornado deaths in Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Kentucky. Most of the deaths were in rural areas that did not have community sirens. Emergency Weather Radios save lives by making sure that you are wakened and alerted when emergency events are occurring in your vicinity.

Extreme Weather Events appear to be occurring more frequently, intensely and earlier each year. A February tornado has been a rare event in the past, but the monitored weather conditions were such that NOAA was able to predict the increased tornado activity six days in advance, and pinpoint the areas that were hit to provide a few minutes to get to a safer area and not be caught by surprise.

My new book Extreme Weather Hits Home is about preparing our dwellings to better withstand and recover from the extreme weather conditions that are becoming more prevalent.

If you find these 1:5:10:365 Tips helpful –  please tell your friends, and ask your local bookseller and library to get my book.




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