Few things put a damper on your holiday spirit like a burst pipe. When you come home after a seasonal family visit to find water spewing onto your floor, you might spend anywhere from $150 for a smaller fix to several thousand dollars for major repairs. More than likely, that kind of money wasn’t in your end-of-year budget!
Unfortunately, this is the reality you may be dealing with if you fail to prepare your home for the cold. From winterizing pipes to protecting your water heater to insulating your home, the right moves can ensure that your property is ready for a freeze even when you’re away. Whether you’re hunkering down during a snowstorm or heading off for holiday visits, here are a few crucial steps to protect your home.
Insulating Your Home
Before we even get to your plumbing, focus on keeping your home warm in general. Proper insulation can reduce your risk of frozen pipes, as it can keep cold air from reaching pipes located in vulnerable areas.
You can improve your home’s insulation without even opening up the walls. Adding extra insulation rolls and spray foam to your attic and basement, for example, can be helpful in areas that aren’t as warm as the rest of your home. You should also seal drafts under your doors and caulk any crevices around windows, vents, heat registers, and drains.
If you have a ventilated crawl space, seal it off during the winter, especially if any pipes run through it. You can do this by placing heavy-duty cardboard and duct tape over the vents, or you can use spray foam insulation.
Insulation is critical if you want to avoid frozen pipes this winter.
Locate any exposed pipes in your home, especially in unheated areas. Your attic, garage, crawl spaces, or basement are most likely to have these types of pipes. Don’t forget about any outdoor faucets as well.
Use pipe insulation, which you can buy online or at most home improvement stores, to cover and warm these pipes. You can find several different insulation varieties, from foam-like coverings to foil tape to bubble-wrap-style sleeves. The type doesn’t matter as long as you keep these areas protected.
When the weather service predicts a severe freeze, consider pairing heat cables with your insulation for even more security.
Draining Outdoor Faucets
If you have any outdoor faucets, hoses, or sprinkler systems, insulation alone isn’t enough to protect them. You’ll also want to drain them whenever they’re not in use, especially before a freeze.
To do this, remove any garden houses and let any water drain out of them, storing them somewhere safe for the winter. Then, turn the outdoor water shutoff valve and turn the faucets on, allowing them to drain until the water trickles to a stop. Turn the faucet back off and cover it with insulation.
Letting Your Faucets Drip
Insulation and heat cables are great protection for your pipes, but it’s still a good idea to let your faucets drip on extra cold nights. This is even more important for pipes along exterior walls, which are most at risk of freezing.
Allowing your faucets to drip relieves pressure on the pipe if the water does freeze. A small drip may keep a frozen pipe from bursting later, preventing serious home damage.
Protecting Your Water Heater
Late fall is the ideal time to service your water heater. Because most households rely on this device much more often in the winter, servicing in the fall can ensure that the system is problem-free and ready to meet a home’s needs as temperatures cool.
If you haven’t already done so, flush your water heater to remove any sediment buildup. This is not necessary for tankless heaters.
When you’re ready to winterize your device when you’ll be away for a few days, there are a few simple steps to take.
Shut off the power at the gas valve or control panel, depending on the type of heater you own. Close the valve for the incoming water line, then drain your tank. To do this, you’ll need to attach a hose to the drain at the bottom of your heater, allowing the water to fully drain.
You should have already insulated any pipes around your water heater, but you should also insulate the tank itself, especially if it sits in an area without heating. Though you can use a home blanket for this, it’s much better to use an insulation blanket designed for water heaters.
Opening the Cabinets
This is an easy one to forget, but it can make a big difference. Opening the cabinet doors below your kitchen and bathroom sinks can introduce a bit more heat to the area. With warmer air reaching the pipes, they’re less likely to freeze.
Keeping the Heat On
If you plan to be away from home for a few days during the winter, avoid turning off the heat! Doing so may save you a little on your heating bill, but it could cost you hundreds or thousands in repair bills if you end up with burst pipes or other winter plumbing problems.
Temperatures in Stillwater don’t always drop to freezing in the winter, but our average lows often hover around 26-30 in the winter months – far too low for your pipe’s comfort. To solve this, experts recommend keeping your home set to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit whenever you’re away during the winter.
Prepare Your Home for the Winter
No matter your plans for the winter, protecting your home from freezes is crucial. Though you’ll need to spend a bit of time and money insulating your property and draining your pipes, the steps you take could save you thousands of dollars as well as massive headaches!
When you’re ready to ensure your home’s protection, Advantage Plumbing Heating and Cooling is on your side.
Our expert technicians have been helping Stillwater homeowners maintain and repair their plumbing for over 50 years, and we’re happy to help you find the right solution for your home’s plumbing needs. Whether you need insights on insulation or you’re dealing with a leaking or broken pipe, contact us for fast and dependable service.