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Preparing Your Pipes for Winter

The winter season brings many joyful occasions: holidays, family gatherings, special meals between friends, or a snowball fight with the neighbors. However, if you are not prepared, some plumbing emergencies can really dampen the excitement. Are your pipes ready to face the winter temperatures this year?

Preparing your home’s plumbing for freezing weather and times when your home may be vacant is essential to maintaining a healthy plumbing system. If water is left in pipes and other spaces and is allowed to freeze, the water will expand. The expansion can cause damage and costly issues to your pipes. Luckily, you can prevent damaged or burst pipes with some easy tips! Read below to discover the simplest ways to winterize your pipes. 

Plumbing Inside Your Home

Though the pipes inside your home are safe from the winter weather outside, they still require some prep to save them from an unfortunate fate. 

  • The most obvious tip is to ensure that your pipes are well-insulated. You can purchase heat cables and foam pipe sleeves that can slip over pipes without disconnecting them. Don’t forget about the exposed pipes in the basement or attic of your home! Anywhere cold air blows on a pipe will create the potential for freezing.
  • Any room located above or next to your garage is especially vulnerable, so it is best to keep your garage door closed to keep heat inside.
  • Any pipes that run along an exterior wall are also at risk. A small space heater can serve as extra protection in rooms with plumbing along the exterior walls. 
  • If you are anticipating a deep freeze, keep your cabinet doors open to allow heat to circulate inside. Pipes in areas that are closed off from the heat in your home are in danger of freezing.
  • Another helpful tip is to ensure your furnace or HVAC system works correctly before winter weather sets in. If your system goes out during freezing temperatures, your pipes will suffer along with you. 
  • Allow your faucets to drip. A trickle of water running through your pipes can relieve pressure build-up and prevent frozen pipes from cracking. Even if your water bill rises, it’s better than the alternative: paying for costly pipe replacements. 
  • Ensure your family knows where to access your water shutoff before a plumbing emergency. Learning how to shut off the water in your home will save you much more cleanup in case of a burst pipe. The shut-off valve is typically located where the water line enters your home; it could be a basement, a crawl space, or a utility closet. 

Plumbing Outside Your Home

Pipes that run on the outside of your home are more vulnerable to the effects of winter temperatures. 

  • An easy first step to winterizing your outdoor plumbing fixtures is disconnecting and storing garden hoses for the winter. Keeping hoses inside will prevent weathering and cracking, so you can use them in future seasons.
  • If you have a separate shut-off for external faucets, turn it off and drain any water from those areas. 
  • You will also want to turn off and drain your sprinkler systems. You can enlist the help of a professional company to blow out any leftover water in the underground lines. If your sprinkler pipe were to burst, it could do costly damage to the whole system.
  • Do you have visible cracks that need to be sealed? These cracks will allow cold air to seep through your pipes to freeze. You can fill the gaps quickly with caulk or spray foam. 
  • Check to ensure your water meter lid is tightly sealed if it is located outside. 

When Leaving Your Home

Traveling is a routine part of the holiday season for many families. Consider these steps if your home will be vacant for a time during the winter. It is important to remember to keep the heat on in your home. Instead of your average temperature when you are home, set it to 55 degrees to prevent freezing. 

  1. Shut off the main water valve. Turn off the water pump and water heater. Having an empty tank will protect the heating elements in the water heater.
  2. Open all drain valves and taps. Leaving a tap closed could create a vacuum holding water inside the pipes. All your valves and taps should stay open throughout the winter months. 
  3. Blow excess water out of the pipes using an air compressor. 
  4. Drain your hot water tank. Open the drain valve and let it discharge until it is empty. You may need to connect a garden hose to do this without having to mop up a mess afterward. 
  5. Flush toilets to remove as much water as possible from the tanks and bowls. If you cannot remove all water, add antifreeze to prevent any remaining water from freezing and cracking the toilet. 
  6. Check all sink and tub drains that could have drain traps. Add a small amount of antifreeze to each one to prevent water from freezing and cracking in the traps. 

Choosing to take the necessary steps to winterize your pipes can prevent the need for costly repairs when emergencies arise. If you do find yourself in need of emergency plumbing help in Birmingham, Alabama, call us at Plumb One. We are plumbing professionals who offer 24/7 emergency plumbing assistance and can help you in preparing your pipes for whatever winter weather may come your way.