Colder winter months are tough on plumbing. This has been especially true lately where temperatures have dipped below zero with wind chill factors. We often hear from clients about broken pipes and unfortunately water damage. One good thing, with our frequent open houses and showings that we do for our clients we know if the heat is working in a home and have helped avoid larger problems.
It doesn’t take much for pipes to burst if they are exposed to the elements, or if they are in a cold house where the thermostat is too low or possibly broken. To protect against costly repairs from broken water pipes, there are steps you should take to ensure that your plumbing stays operational especially if you are away for the winter or even for a few days. Here are some important things to consider to save your pipes from bursting:
Insulate pipes where possible
Cracked pipes caused by water freezing inside the pipes, is particularly likely if they are outside or in exterior walls that are not insulated. One of the best measures to prevent pipes from bursting is to insulate them with foam covers, or spiral-wrap or fiberglass insulation. You can do it yourself, or call a plumbing service to perform the installation. If you have an older home that has poor insulation, look into home insulation alternatives – it will not only protect your pipes, but also reduces your fuel consumption.
A slow drip in a faucet also may help pipes from freezing
Letting a faucet drip can help relieve some of the pressure on your pipes during the winter months because water running slowly through the pipes isn't likely to freeze. This is a good idea for older homes that have pipes in exterior walls and poor insulation. Leaving a faucet dripping may sound wasteful, but considering how much damage a burst pipe can cause, a slight increase in the use of water is a prudent option. Remember to check that the drain is unstopped if you go away for more than a few hours. Some people use the bath tub faucet as an added precaution.
Drain outside faucets and put hoses in storage
Never leave your garden hose connected to a faucet during the winter and drain outside faucets. The cold will freeze not only the water remaining inside the hose, but also every single drop left inside the faucet. Disconnect the hose, empty it and put it away until spring.
Keep your outside drains clear
All your drains should be kept clear during the colder months, because the debris inside them can freeze, as well. Be sure that your drains aren't clogged—any amount of standing water inside your drain pipes will likely freeze and cause problems.
Keep the heat running even when you're away for a day or on vacation
When no one will be home for several days, or even weeks, you can prevent your plumbing from freezing by keeping your heat on low while you're away. Again, the extra cost for heating will be a mere fraction of the cost to repair damage caused by running water in your house if a pipe bursts.
Consult with your plumber and determine whether you can close the water main inside your home if you are going to be away. This will minimize any damage from a pipe burst. Also I had a plumber tell me that the water to the washer should always be closed when you leave the house because the rubber water connectors dry out and crack and most of us don’t think about replacing them until something happens! Winter plumbing issues can quickly become major problems. Taking the necessary precautions and your chances of cracked or burst pipes this winter will be considerably diminished.
Source: Housecall, Winter Plumbing Tips, Victoria Brown, January 29, 2019