Preparing Plumbing and Pipes for Winter
Before the Mercury Plummets, Take Some Preventive Plumbing Action!
Winter time can wreak havoc on your home’s pipes and plumbing system, especially in Horizon Services’ service area of Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland where temperatures can yo-yo between moderate to sub-zero and back all within a week…and often do. Freezing and fluctuating temperatures can cause pipes to crack. Melting snow and ice can lead to leaks, flooding and structural damage all over your house.
Fortunately, there are many things that homeowners can do themselves to prevent damage and ensure that their home plumbing systems continue to work as efficiently as possible. A regular round of checks that can be easily carried out will help maintain the long-term optimal working of the plumbing system and save on costly plumbing repair bills.
Especially as winter approaches, make sure that any outside hose pipes are disconnected from faucets and that the water leading out to these faucets is turned off. If water in the pipes or hoses freezes, it will expand, causing hoses and pipes to crack or even burst. This can lead to very serious leaks and flooding. This can happen to plastic pipes as well as metal.
The shut-down of external pipes can be made easier if your home has shut-off valves installed, which will close them down and drain the water off. Once effectively disconnects, the exterior faucets can then be protected from the cold weather with lagging.
If you have pipes situated in areas of the home that are not heated, such as basements, attics or garages, these can be insulated from temperature extremes using heat tape or foam insulated sleeves. These materials are available at most hardware stores.
It’s also important to keep as much heat inside your home to prevent pipes from freezing, especially in those cold rooms. To increase energy efficiency, seal doors and windows from drafts using materials you can buy in any home centers.
Water heaters work extra hard during the winter, so check yours to make sure that it is performing up to speed. Flushing it out periodically to get rid of any build-up of sediments, as these cause corrosion and greatly effect efficiency and longevity of the unit. Drain off a few gallons using the faucet situated near the base of the unit. Also check the pressure release valve, which should snap smartly back into place when lifted after allowing a spurt of water to the drain. If it is slack, get somebody in to replace it.
The water heater’s thermostatic control should be set according to the season. In winter you’ll want optimum performance, of course, at about 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Going away for a couple days over the winter? If you’re not regularly running water, it can collect in pipes and freeze, especially if you lose power or the temperature takes a nosedive. It’s a good idea to leave some warm water running at a slow drip…just so it keeps moving through your pipes. If you have a programmable thermostat, you can set it to turn on periodically while you are away to make sure that no room gets too cold.
In addition, you may also have to clean debris such as dead leaves from gutters and around the downspouts to allow for better drainage after the coming thaw. Clear ice and snow away from outside walls to prevent snow melt from getting inside your home. Make sure snow doesn’t accumulate near vents. And if you can, try clearing ice and snow from roofs before it accumulates too heavily. Many hardware stores carry telescoping rakes that can reach rooftops without having to use a ladder. You can also toss a few thermal cakes up onto your roof to chemically stimulate snow and ice melt.
To winterize your plumbing, you need only a very basic set of tools to maintain your home plumbing system, available from any home center. A pipe wrench is probably the most important, enabling you to get a good grip on pipes and fittings. A pair of pliers will help you to adjust nuts and bolts, but these can damage fittings if you slip up, so get some smooth sleeves to fit. These tools are fine for the small maintenance jobs you’re likely to be carrying out, but for bigger home plumbing jobs it’s best to get the professionals in, otherwise things could take a turn for the worse.