It has been a busy year for plumbers fixing cracked frozen pipes, but local plumbing and air conditioning specialists say the danger of leaking pipes is never really over for homeowners. It’s important to take steps year-round to prevent water damage.

When temperatures dipped below freezing for several days in a row, Ahwatukee Foothills resident and plumbing operations manager for the Sunny Plumber, John Onorato, said they received 16 service calls by 11 a.m. on the third day of the freeze.

“It’s really cold and the pipes freeze and as it gets warmer throughout the day it thaws out and then the pipes start popping,” he said.

The cracks caused by frozen pipes aren’t something that usually go unnoticed. Even if the pipes are inside a wall, someone living inside the home would notice the water build up in a few hours, Onorato said.

“Every two to three years we see a deep freeze like the one experienced this year,” Onorato said. “It has to freeze four to five hours for three days in a row to cause this kind of freezing.”

While the danger of freezing pipes may be over by this time of year, pipes still need constant maintenance to keep them flowing correctly. Onorato compares pipe maintenance to car maintenance.

“If you have a car that’s brand new and you park it and never use it for two years it may not fire up,” he said. “Those parts are meant to be moving. Drains are meant to have water rushing through them.”

For anyone who leaves their home for any extended period of time, Onorato suggests having someone who may be looking over the home include flushing the toilets and running water through the pipes into their routine. There are also sensors that can be purchased and placed in areas around the house that will alert the homeowner if there is water where it shouldn’t be. Some are even high-tech enough to send an email alert if the humidity in an area goes above a certain point.

Dan Burke, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident who runs Goettl Good Guys Air Conditioning, said in his own home the pipe that usually drains water collected from his air conditioning unit on his roof and clogged a few years ago. No one at home realized the problem until gallons of water soaked into insulation and came crashing through the roof of his home. Since then, Burke has purchased sensors that will alert him if water is building up in an area it shouldn’t be.

“We didn’t really see a problem, but then all of a sudden we heard a crash,” Burke added. “We had broken dry wall and ceiling. We placed all of these buckets to catch the water that kept coming, and tried to pick up as much insulation as we could. I wish we would have had a sensor. If it had detected the water it would have shut the water off.”

There are many different types of sensors that can be purchased. Some are simple enough to let out a loud noise when they detect water. Others may require a licensed professional to install them as they are meant to shut off the water to the home if they detect a problem. Most Valley plumbers also have technology that can help detect any leaks in pipes. Onorato suggests getting a professional to search for leaks before leaving your home for an extended period of time.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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