If you're like millions of Americans that live in a part of the country that experiences cold or freezing temperatures during the winter, chances are you or someone you know has had pipes freeze or crack due to cold temperatures. It's certainly unfortunate when this happens but the good news is there are some steps you can take to protect your plumbing during the cold winter months. For a minimal investment and a little time, winterizing your plumbing is something you can do yourself. Below we've listed our best tips to protect your pipes and make sure everything functions as it should during the winter.
Insulate Pipes in Exposed Areas
If you have pipes that are exposed on the outside of your home, in a crawl space or a garage, they're going to be susceptible to temperatures much colder than pipes that are fully enclosed. Before winter comes, take some time and thoroughly wrap all your exposed pipes in heat tape or foam tubes. These materials should be readily available at any hardware store and are not cost prohibitive.
Find Your Main Shutoff Valve
It's easy to overlook but knowing where your main shutoff valve is can be a lifesaver in the event of a plumbing emergency. The valve is usually located in your basement or crawl space near the water meter and is a gate or ball valve. If something goes wrong, the first thing you'll want to do is shut off your main valve.
Disconnect and Drain Outdoor Hoses
Chances are you have hoses you use to water your garden or wash your car during the warmer months. Before freezing temperatures set in, take a couple of minutes to disconnect and drain all your hoses. Doing so will keep any excess water from freezing inside the hoses over the winter. This will also allow any frost‐free outdoor hose bibbs to drain so they can do what they are intended to. You can also cover the faucet with a freeze cap.
Seal Cracks in Windows and Doors
If you have cracks in windows and doors, cold winter winds can easily blow through and lower temperatures even indoors, causing pipes to freeze or burst. All you'll need for this project is a tube of caulk and a caulking gun. Make sure you do this job carefully as you don't want to seal any air vents or electrical outlets that appliances need to function properly.
Turn Off Your Water if You're Going to be Away for a Long Time
If you're going to be away on vacation or traveling for the holidays, it's a good idea to turn off your main water valve and drain your outside faucets before you leave. If you're a little hesitant about turning off your water, you can also leave your thermostat set at 55 degrees to prevent inside pipes from freezing.
Keep Your Faucets Dripping
During the coldest of cold snaps, pipes even inside your home can freeze. If your pipes are old or temperatures get down into the single digits or below zero, leave a small constant flow of water dripping from your faucets. When water is moving through pipes at a steady flow, they are much less likely to freeze.
Leave Your Cabinets Open
During cold temperatures, leave the cabinets below your sinks open. Even though these pipes are considered to be inside your home, they sit in cold dark places where heat might not reach. If you simply leave these spaces open, you most likely won't have to worry about these pipes freezing.
Inspect Your Walls for Cracks
At some point each autumn, take some time and thoroughly inspect your walls both inside and outside for cracks. Even the smallest cracks can allow frigid air to penetrate the interior and negate the effectiveness of your insulation. If you find any cracks in your walls, they can be easily repaired with caulk or a spray foam you can find at your local hardware store. Not only will you be protecting your pipes, you'll save hard earned money on your heating bill during the coldest months as well.
If you own your own home and experience cold temperatures during the winter, you know all too well all the projects that need to be completed to get your home ready for cold temperatures. From looking after your boat or RV to putting the plow on your riding lawn mower, the list is long and you're going to log some hours getting everything ready. Even though winterizing your plumbing might not seem like the most glamorous job in the world, taking the necessary steps to make sure everything remains in good working order can save you unneeded headaches and money in costly repairs during the coldest months of the year. In the event that something does go wrong, having the knowledge to address the problem quickly will save you time and money as well.