Winter has come, and that means it’s time to prepare your home for the cold. It’s not uncommon for temperatures to fall below freezing during the colder months. Once the temperatures drop, the cold can affect the water in your pipes, leading to some plumbing complications come spring. The cold can freeze your pipes, putting them at risk of cracking or leaking and leading to costly damage around the house.
A little preparation now can be vital for protecting your home from future damage. Taking steps now will help you to avoid damage to the pipes or your home.
Here are a few tips that can help you avoid damage and keep your pipes safe and leak-free until spring.
*Insulate your pipes – One common cause of leaky pipes in winter is the pipes getting too cold. This allows the water in the pipes to freeze, causing them to expand and burst pipes. Your outdoor pipes (which are most exposed to the cold) are especially at risk. You can find some insulating materials at most hardware stores.
Look for foam tubes that can fit around the pipes to keep them warm. Use duct tape to secure the tube around the pipes (some foam tubes have self-adhesive edges, so you don’t have to use tape). Insulated pipes can also help conserve your heated water, which can go some way to keeping your heating bills through the winter.
*Check your water heater – Hot water is a must during winter. Now that it’s cold, a hot shower can be just what you need to help you stay warm (to say nothing of using the water to cook or clean). Give the water heater a look before it gets cold to ensure it’s in good working order. Sediments build-up tends to collect at the bottom of the heater, which causes rust and damage that can affect the heater’s performance. Drain the tank and remove any sediments to keep the heater working properly.
It’s also a good time to check that the heater is free of leaks that could waste water. If you have an old or damaged heater, it might be time to replace it before it can cause any issues.
*Close your shut-off valves – Once you find out how to shut off your water at the source, you can use that knowledge even outside an emergency. Once it gets cold, shut off the water to your outdoor faucets and drain the water from the outdoor lines. This measure keeps the water from freezing and damaging the pipes.
*Let the water run – Keeping the water flowing through the pipes helps keep them from freezing and relieves the pressure from temperature expansion. If you cannot shut off an outside faucet, leaving it on at a trickle can keep it from freezing up and potentially cracking the pipes. Remember to turn the water off when the cold snaps end to avoid wasting water.
*Keep the home heated properly – If it gets cold enough, your indoor pipes can be hit by the cold as well. Make sure the house stays well-heated to keep a consistent temperature. Check your thermostat and furnace to ensure they’re up to the job of keeping the house warm. Having enough warm air circulating is key to keeping the pipes from freezing. For extra warmth, try opening your cabinets and doors to expose the pipes to more of the warmth circulating through the house.
*Disconnect the garden hose for winter – Disconnecting your garden hose is a great homeowner hack for avoiding damage to your pipes. Leaving them connected to the faucets allows water left in the hose to freeze, which can also freeze the water in the pipes.
The safe thing to do is to disconnect, drain, and wrap up the hose, and put it away until the warm weather returns. While you’re at it, check the hose for any signs of damage. Use the time to replace your older hoses so you can start the year with a new hose when it’s time to water your garden.
*Find your home’s main shut-off valve – In case of the worst, knowing what to do can make a world of difference. Find out where your home’s shut-off valve is to help keep potential leaks under control. Knowing when and how to shut off your water flow is key to preventing a plumbing emergency from getting out of control. Prepare yourself as early as now; it may just prevent a leak from causing too much damage around the house.
*Clean the sump pump pit – A properly-maintained sump pump has an important job. It pumps away water that ends up in the basement and keeps the space from flooding. Before it gets cold, inspect and clean the sump pump and pit. In cold weather, the sump pump can malfunction and stop working altogether. Winter rains and snap thaws happen, and a sump pump can be a great tool to keep water out of the house where it can’t do any damage. Prevent any flood damage by cleaning the pump as early as now. Your sump pump may also find use come spring when the snow melts. Ensuring that it is in working condition now may pay off over the next few months.
*Take care of any existing leaks – Whenever you find a leak at home, the best time to fix it is right away. Check all the faucets to ensure there aren’t any unexpected leaks when it gets cold. Keep an eye out for any puddles; they’re usually signs that a pipe is leaking somewhere. If you find a leaky pipe or faucet anywhere, give your plumber a call immediately to address the problem before it gets worse.
*Refrain from pouring oil down the drain – Some homeowners take the shortcut of pouring leftover oil and grease down the drain. However, avoid this habit for the sake of the well-being of your plumbing. Cooking oil and grease tend to clog when the plumbing gets cold, putting a strain on the pipes, drains, and disposals. After cleaning, always run the water for at least 15 seconds to keep everything flowing down the drain and avoid clogging. Aside from oil and grease, putting stringy substances and hard particles (e.g. coffee grounds) down the drain is another no-no.
Ideally, homeowners should carry out a thorough inspection with cameras of the pipes before it gets cold. Think of it as a good chance to check for any existing leaks and address them before any frozen water can make the problem worse. Speak with your plumber to get a professional assessment of your pipes. With a pro’s help, it’ll be much easier to take the right steps and keep the pipes intact all winter long.
When you’re looking for fast, reliable plumbing, give Plumbing Authority Inc. a call. We understand that emergencies can pop up suddenly, so we offer quick service to help you get the problem under control swiftly. No emergency’s too big or small for us.