Winterize Your Home Plumbing To Save Hassles And Money
Illinois winters are notorious for wrecking home plumbing and leading to costly repairs. The dangers of not winterizing your home include broken pipes that can result in expensive water damage, but there are some easy steps you can follow that will help you avoid this frustrating problem.
Why You Need to Winterize Home Plumbing
As water expands, it freezes and puts your pipes under an intense amount of strain. Regardless of how strong you think your pipes may be, they can easily break if they are subjected to enough pressure.
Pipes typically will not burst at the exact point where the water freezes, but rather between the freeze and a closed faucet. As pressure builds because of an ice blockage, the only place it can go will be through the wall of the pipe. This, of course, leads to a fracture or break.
Winterizing water pipes — especially those in your kitchen cabinets, attic, crawl space, basement and garage — can give them the protection they need when the weather turns cold.
Winterizing Water Pipes Inside the Home
Just about every home has areas where heated air can’t reach. As a result, any pipes in these areas will be at a high risk of freezing when temperatures dip dangerously low. Pipes exposed to temperatures of 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower for even a short period of time can fracture and ultimately break, so follow these tips to make sure they’re protected:
- Insulate your pipes. Pipe insulation is your best protection against freezing temperatures. You should easily be able to find fiberglass or polyethylene insulation at your local hardware store. Take measurements of the areas of pipes you plan to cover so that you make sure you have the right size of insulation tube. If you want to add a layer of protection when you winterize house pipes, use heat-tape before insulating. Make sure that you carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions, however, to reduce the chances of any damage occurring.
- Don’t forget to winterize your water heater. If your water heater is in an area of the home that does not get a lot of warm air, remember to insulate any pipes leading to and from the unit, as well. Seal any cracks that might allow cold air to reach the water heater, but be careful to avoid plugging any vents that the unit may need to operate properly and safely.
- Protecting your bathroom pipes. If you have a bathroom next to a garage, the pipes inside could be especially vulnerable to a freeze. Remember to keep the garage door closed if the temperatures are expected to drop dangerously low. Also, if your pipes run near a wall that will be exposed to cold air, keep your vanity door open, if possible, to let in warm air from your heater. You might even want to consider purchasing a small space heater for extra protection — be careful not to set it up anywhere near your shower curtain, shower curtain liner or anything else that could come in contact with the unit.
- Keep your thermostat at a consistent temperature. A lot of people will set their thermostat lower at night to save money. However, when the weather gets bitterly cold, that can put your pipes at a higher risk of freezing. Keep your thermostat at the same temperature during the night as you do during the day. If you plan to leave home for an extended period of time, never set the temperature lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Be alert to a hard freeze. Pay attention to the weather forecast so that you can be ready if temperatures are going to be well below freezing for an extended period. For example, open all of the cabinet doors under your home’s sinks so they can get a sufficient amount of heated air. Also, open your faucets — particularly those along your home’s exterior walls — just enough to allow a steady drip of water. This will relieve enough pressure to possibly prevent a burst pipe even if an ice blockage forms.
Outside the Home — and What to Do if a Pipe Bursts
It’s just as important to winterize home plumbing outdoors as it is to winterize your house pipes inside. For example, you should make sure to not only turn off your irrigation system, but also to completely drain it. Don’t just assume that your lawn maintenance company did it for you.
What’s more, make sure to winterize the outside faucet by using insulation, and disconnect and drain your hoses. Drain your swimming pool as well as the supply lines by carefully following the manufacturer’s instructions. Never use antifreeze to protect the lines because it can be extremely dangerous for pets and landscaping as well as humans. Close all of the exterior vents so that freezing air will stay out of your crawl spaces. If you don’t have metal covers, you can always use heavy-duty cardboard. Simply cut to size and seal with duct tape.
Unfortunately, there are times where a pipe will burst even if you take all of the precautions you possibly can to winterize your home plumbing. If that happens, you’ll need to act fast in order to prevent as much water damage as possible.
Take some time to become familiar with your home’s main water shut-off valve. It is usually located near the spot where the municipal water line enters your home from the street. If you should experience a burst pipe, this valve will cut off the flow of water and minimize damage. Once you locate it, either paint it a color you can’t miss or hang a tag on it so everyone in your home can find it.
If you need help locating the shut-off valve or experience a burst pipe, get in touch with the experts at Mendel Plumbing and Heating as soon as you can. We are extremely familiar with this type of problem and have more than 30 years of experience. Call 630-377-3608 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.