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      Preventing frozen pipes

      Placing foam or heat tape around the pipes in your home now could prevent them from from freezing, or worse, bursting on days when the temperatures drop below 20 degrees.

      That's according to Rick Gillis of Swick Plumbing and Heating in Marquette, who says new homes built after 1970, don't have the risk older homes do, when the mercury dips.

      "Not really," said Gillis. "It really comes down to getting your plumbing installed correctly. If it's a new home; not installing pipes on exterior walls."

      So, what if your pipes do freeze? Professionals use an electric device that uses amps to thaw the pipe out. They say if it's a small freeze, homeowners can thaw a pipe themselves.

      "Do not use a torch on the pipe," Gillis suggests. "The other thing people will take some gas or oil-type salamanders and stick them underneath the home, whether in a crawl space or a basement and that can be a dangerous situation also."

      And contractors at Swick Plumbing and Heating say the best way to keep pipes from freezing is to push snow up around the house, providing another layer of insulation.

      If you want to recover damages from your insurance companies, agents at City Insurance, say it's important to keep vacant homes maintained, including summer homes left unoccupied by snowbirds.

      "Most policies have verbiage in it that you have to reasonably maintain your property," co-owner of City Insurance, Doug Anderson, "which includes maintaining heat in the building or draining your systems, and insurance companies will look at whether that is done or not."

      But insurance companies only pay for damages. If you call a plumber to thaw your pipes, that money will come out of pocket.