(1) Pex is not widely accepted out here yet and can only be found on new properties, IF at all.
(2) Homes out here typically do not have basements – most 4-plexes are built on a slab. They may have a crawl space, but it is very uncommon.
As for the actual question, the answer is YES.
Cold weather like this doesn’t happen very often, BUT … you only need one situation to ruin your whole day. When it gets this cold here, pipes DO freeze, but usually only outside at the entry to the home and in un-insulated areas such as crawl spaces.
I’d recommend a few things:
(1) In most cases, the water supply and shut-off valve to the property is above ground and un-insulated. I’d recommend applying a covering of pipe insulation such as Insul-Tube 65834 Closed Cell Pipe Insulation (see it here: http://bit.ly/8TTKeH). You can also built a wood box around the water supply and shut-off valve, layer the inside with a layer of 1” Styrofoam insulation – this can just rest on the ground and against the house to cover the pipes – don’t fasten it to the property because the shut-off value has to be readily available.
(2) If your property is on a slab, you will typically not have to worry about pipes in the slab (unless we have extended days of below zero temperatures and you are not heating the property). If it has a crawl space, you can insulate the pipes in the crawl space the same way mentioned in (1) above. Most California homes have un-insulated pipes in the exterior walls – therefore, you need to keep the interior heat on at all times – 50% is fine.
In addition to being a Realtor, I’m also a licensed general contractor and familiar with the Sacramento area – let me know if you have any additional questions.
Any exterior pipes you have should have some insulation around them for just this reason.
While it's rare that we get as cold as we have, I remember back in 1991 here we had almost 2 weeks of this kind of weather and stories of pipes breaking were all over the area.
There was a big flood of orders for exterior pipe insulation... and it's something you should have installed, if not already on your complex, especially on the exterior "gate valve" for the whole building.
I hope this helps.
Make it a great day....
Even if occupied, I've sometimes seen water lines that are exposed to the outside air freeze. Simply by covering with and taping an old towel over the exposed pipe will help prevent freezing in this rare occurrence of freezing temperatures in Sacramento. If the freezing temperatures persist for lets say more than four or five days, that's when we see trouble here in Sacramento.
I hope this helps.
Most homes are on slabs so you just need to worry about pipes in the walls especially if they're running outside. Just this week we've been down in the 20's but that's so rare. Keep the home at about 50 degrees, even if it's vacant, wrap the outside faucets, as the home inspector had probably indicated on his report, and you should be fine. Again, I'd review your home inspection report for any areas that might have a risk in this rare weather we're having.