In order to prepare your home for winter and the cold, there are quite a few things you need to do. Aside from raking leaves and tuning up the snow blower, you should also think about your home’s plumbing system. Dealing with a burst pipe in the cold of winter can be a pain and expensive. Repairs can range anywhere from $200 to $700 or more, depending on the damage. That doesn’t include all the clean up, and any water damage to your home, momentos, electronics, or whatever else in the spray zone. Making a few adjustments and upgrades can make the difference between a cozy winter night with your family, and a freezing night spent dealing with plumbing issues. Here are a few things you can do to prevent plumbing problems this winter. Be sure to contact Drain Wizards if you have any more questions!
- Shut off and drain outdoor spigots – There may be a shut off valve leading to your outdoor faucets. Once colder weather has set it, it is time to turn off the outdoor water supply to prevent pipes from bursting during freezing temperatures. Turn off the outdoor spigot with the shut off valve and leave the faucet turned to the “open” position, so that any water left in can drain out. If it stays in the pipe because the faucet is turned to the “closed” position, your chances of a pipe bursting are a lot higher.
- Put hoses away – Hoses that are left out over the winter months are at a greater risk of freezing and creating leaks. Let your hoses drain and then store them in your garage or somewhere out of the elements. This will prolong the lifespan of the hoses and ensure they are ready to go when warmer weather comes back.
- Frost-free sill cocks and hose bibs – You can install frost-free sill cocks to lower the risk of having burst pipes. These work because the working parts (valve, seat, washer) are moved further inside your home. Most outdoor faucets have all the working parts right where you turn the faucet on. A frost-free sill cock has parts that are up to 18 inches inside the wall, so it is more tucked away and less exposed to the cold. You can purchase these at a hardware store for anywhere from $15 to $55. While that may seem expensive, it is nowhere near the cost it would be to clean up and replace a pipe that breaks due to freezing. Hose bib covers are another handy gadget that can help prevent freezing problems with your outdoor spigots. They are simply covers that fit over your faucet head that add a little insulation. At about $3 per bib, they are easy to install and remove.
Insulate pipes or use heat cables
After taking care of the outdoor plumbing fixture, it is time to check out the pipes that run inside your home, specifically those that are under the floor. If you have areas in your home that are not heated, like a basement, crawl space, or attic, and you have pipes running through those areas, it is really important that you take some extra steps to avoid frozen and burst pipes. There are a number of approved insulation materials available. However, just adding insulation may not be enough. The solution may be to first purchase and install a heat cable. This small cable just needs an outlet to plug into to be operational. Depending on the type you buy, some even have thermometers built in, and will turn themselves on if it gets below a certain temperature. To install, simply run the heat cable along the side of the pipe you want to protect, so that the cable is touching the pipe. Secure with electrical tape and plug the cable in so that it has a power source. You can add more protection by covering the pipe and cable with proper insulation. The required materials are generally inexpensive versus the cost of repairs in the event of a break.
An easy habit to get into is to turn off your water at the main shut off valve if you are going to be away for more than a day or so. This prevents a lot of damage if a pipe does freeze and break. There won’t be water spraying everywhere because the water source has been turned off.
Insulating your garage door is another way to keep your loved ones, and your pipes, nice and cozy. If you have exposed pipes running through your garage, an insulated garage door can help prevent pipes from freezing. You can also use heat cables or place a portable heater in the garage during really cold weather.
Cold snap advice
- Keep temperature steady or a few degrees warmer – Don’t lower the temperature and cover up with blankets to save on your energy bill. Protect your pipes by keeping your home a steady temperature, or even consider turning up the heat one or two degrees. The money you spend on turning the heat up will be worth the cost of preventing burst pipes.
- Leave cabinet doors open – On really cold days, consider leaving cabinets open if they have piping running through the back, such as the cabinet under your kitchen sink. This will allow the heated air in your home to penetrate and warm the pipes, rather than being blocked by cabinet doors.
- Leave faucets dripping – If you know the temperature is going to drop a lot, leave your faucets dripping. This keeps water moving, making it more difficult for the water to freeze within the pipe. If a pipe freezes, the expanding water has nowhere to go, thus causing the pipe to burst. If a faucet is left on, even just a small trickle will allow water to escape, and hopefully prevent the pipe from bursting.
Contact Drain Wizard today to further discuss ways you can protect your plumbing during the winter months.