The winter is a challenging time for your plumbing system. Pipes that are not properly winterized or insulated can remain full of water and explode when the water freezes. Your water heater or tankless water heater has to work harder to provide hot water. Your pipes could freeze if your furnace stops working.
All of this is to say that, for any homeowner, preparing your plumbing for the winter is a good idea. It will save you a lot of headaches and discomfort – such as a blisteringly cold shower in the morning before work when your water heater goes out, unexpectedly – and also time and money.
So, in this article, we’ll go over eight simple steps you can take to prepare your home’s plumbing for the winter. Read on, and see what you should do to make sure that your home stays safe, warm, and free of any major issues.
1. Shut Off (And Drain) Your Outdoor Faucets
The first thing you need to do is drain and shut off all of your outdoor faucets. If you don’t do this, water could remain in the faucet. As it gets colder, it will expand and the pipe will burst, leading to expensive and difficult repair.
Remove water hoses, shut off the water supply to the outdoor spigot, and drain it from the connecting pipe, which will usually have a valve that will allow you to do so. You may even want to consider covering the exterior of the outdoor faucet with extra insulation, for extra protection.
If you’re not sure how to do this, check out a few DIY videos on YouTube to learn more – or consider hiring a professional to winterize your exterior faucets and pipes. It’s worth the investment of time and money – trust us.
2. Get Your Water Heater Checked
If your water heater breaks, you’ll be dealing with some extremely cold water – which is not ideal for cooking, cleaning, or bathing. So if your water heater fails, you’re in for a few nasty days of showers – or you may be forced to bathe elsewhere, such as the gym or the office. Obviously, you want to avoid this.
Water heaters can fail for a variety of reasons. Many traditional, tank-based water heaters tend to build up quite a bit of sediment, which can clog the pipes and valves, preventing hot water from escaping. Older water heaters may just fail without warning, especially if they are over 10-15 years old.
Having a plumbing professional check your water heater before the weather turns frigid is a worthwhile investment. They can make sure that everything looks good, and that any potential repairs can be done before the weather hits below-freezing temperatures.
This is also a good time to consider upgrading to a tankless water heater. Tankless water heaters are more mechanically simple – and efficient – compared to traditional, tank-based water heaters.
This means that they last longer (20+ years), and are more reliable for delivering the hot water that you need, even during the cold winter months. If your water heater is failing or unreliable, now may be the perfect time to replace it completely.
3. Schedule A Furnace Inspection
You may not consider your furnace to be a critical component of your home’s plumbing in the winter, so this might seem confusing. But if your furnace fails, the temperature of your home can decrease quickly – especially at night.
This means that, in some areas with poor insulation, interior temperatures could easily sink below the freezing point – which could lead to catastrophic pipe failures.
To avoid this, you must make sure that your furnace is in good condition. Have an HVAC professional examine your furnace, ducts, and other parts of your heating system, to ensure that everything looks good. If you fail to do this, your plumbing could be at risk.
4. Keep The Temperature At The Proper Level
At no point do you want to lower your thermostat below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. It may be tempting to lower the thermostat when you go to work, sleep, or leave for a vacation – winter heating bills add up quickly – but this is not a good idea.
At such a low temperature, poorly-insulated areas of your home could reach near-freezing temperatures. Again, this will result in catastrophic pipe failure and an expensive repair.
5. Seal And Insulate Drafts That Are Near Your Pipes
Now is the perfect time to take a look at your home’s insulation and winterization. You may want to consider adding more insulation to areas like your garage, attic, or basement. This is also a good time to use caulk or another sealer to deal with any drafts that may be coming around your window.
You should focus on sealing and insulating areas that are near exposed pipes – but if you have the time, it’s a good idea to winterize your whole house, to save on heating and ensure you feel comfortable in the cold months.
You may even want to consider things like adding exterior shutters to some areas of your home or using cell blinds and thick curtains to minimize heat loss from your windows.
6. Insulate Water Pipes In Unheated Areas
Even after insulating the rest of your home, it’s a good idea to insulate water pipes that are in unheated – or poorly heated – areas of your home, such as crawl spaces, garages, and other such areas.
At most hardware stores and home improvement stores, you can pick up rolls of tape-backed insulation that can simply be rolled onto your pipes. You can also find foam insulation that will slip on and off of your pipes quickly and easily, which is ideal if you’d like to be able to remove the insulation at some point in the future. This will help protect your pipes and keep them warm, preventing any potentially catastrophic freezing.
7. Know What To Do If You’re Traveling
When you’re traveling for an extended period of time, you’ll want to make sure that your home stays protected, and that your pipes don’t freeze.
You can set your thermostat for 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This will be enough to prevent your pipes from freezing, and it will minimize the amount of fuel and energy consumed by your furnace.
You should also turn off your main water supply, and drain all of the water from your pipes by turning on all of the faucets throughout your home until they run dry.
Taking these two steps allows you to make sure that your pipes are protected, and minimizes the amount of energy spent on heating an unoccupied home.
Alternatively, you could simply hire a house sitter, who would live in the house and use your faucets and appliances normally. It’s up to you!
8. Protect Your Pipes In A Cold Snap
If it is extremely, abnormally cold outside, or some of the rooms in your home tend to get colder than others, you may want to take some extra, additional steps to protect your pipes.
- Open the cabinet doors – Opening the cabinet doors under your bathroom or kitchen sink can help warm air circulate more effectively. If it is extremely cold, you could also consider placing some space heaters near these areas – but this is not necessary, in most case.
- Let water drip through your faucets – Moving water is harder to freeze than stagnant water. A steady, constant flow of water throughout your pipes will help prevent any kind of freezing or pipe damage.
- Don’t lower your thermostat at night or during the day – If you have a programmable thermostat, a great way to save money on heating costs is by programming it for a lower temperature – say, 60 degrees Fahrenheit – when everyone in your home is asleep, or at work or school.
But if it’s really cold outside, you may want to reconsider this practice. Keeping your thermostat at a more consistent higher temperature will cost you a bit more money on your heating bill, but it will also help safeguard your pipes – so it’s worth the price.
Even if it’s unusually cold in your area, these tips will help you protect your plumbing and your pipes from a potentially devastating freeze.
Follow These Safety Tips To Keep Your Pipes Intact This Winter!
The threat of frozen pipes is real for all homeowners. No matter how well you think you’re protected, it could happen to you, if you don’t take the appropriate steps to winterize your plumbing and prepare for winter.
So don’t wait. While the weather is still relatively mild, you should start thinking about how you can protect your pipes from freezing, and how you can also avoid issues like a failed water heater or furnace. Follow this guide, and you’re sure to be ready for anything that Old Man Winter throws your way!