Winterize Your Plumbing System With 6 Simple Tips
Winter weather means your home or commercial plumbing system will be exposed to cold temperatures. Unless the pipes are properly winterized, they could freeze and burst. When pipes freeze, pressure builds between the ice and a closed outlet, like a bath or kitchen faucet. That pressure will eventually burst through the pipe walls. The result will be disrupted water use and potentially expensive repairs.
Simple pipe winterizing will help you prevent your pipes from freezing. Use these 6 plumbing tips to protect your plumbing system this winter.
- Insulate your pipes. It’s especially important to insulate the most vulnerable pipes. Look for outdoor pipes, pipes that are exposed to cold temperatures by holes or cracks in walls, and pipes in unheated spaces. Plastic withstands freezing better than steel and copper but it’s a good idea to play it safe and insulate all vulnerable pipes.
Check your local hardware store for the insulation supplies you need in correct sizes, like slip-on foam and wrapping insulation, and insulation sleeves made of fiberglass or polyethylene. For extra protection, wrap pipes in heat tape before applying the insulation (but be sure to note the use and safety precautions first).
- Heat your home. Where possible, make sure heat can reach the pipes that are at risk of freezing. Open cupboard doors to let air reach pipes, turn on fans to circulate warm air throughout the house, and consider using a monitored space heater to provide extra heat in cold rooms.
- Seal drafty spaces. Several areas of your house might be drafty even in warm months. You can effectively insulate basements, attics, ventilated crawl spaces and garages with cardboard and duct tape. Look for vents, gaps, broken windows and similar spots that you can seal safely. The warmer you can keep the house, the less likely you’ll end up with frozen pipes.
- Turn on a faucet. An easy way to prevent burst pipes on especially cold days and nights is to leave a faucet running just enough that it drips. This won’t keep pipes from freezing but it’s enough to release the pressure that would otherwise build in the pipe if it freezes. A frozen pipe’s inconvenient but much better than a burst pipe and potential flooding.
- Seal cracks. Walk around your house and look for exterior damage. If you see any damage that could expose pipes to cold winter weather seal it with caulk or spray insulation.
- Remember outdoor water lines. If there’s a separate main shut-off valve for your outdoor water lines, turn it off and let remaining water drain from the connected faucets before turning them off as well. Do the same with any in-ground or above-ground sprinkler systems (excess water should be cleared from those lines too).
If you suspect your pipes have frozen, turn the main water line valve off and then turn on the faucets to release pressure. Inspect your pipes for the frozen sections so that they can be thawed safely. Look for signs of a rupture before turning the water on again to avoid interior flooding. If you’re unsure how to do this, call a local professional plumber for guidance.