Wintertime should be reserved for hot cocoa, sledding, and enjoying all the season has to offer — not worrying about freezing pipes and plumbing emergencies. Luckily, we’ve compiled the five most important things you should do to winter-proof your plumbing.
1. Seal Cracks, Drains, and Openings
When cold air blows on a pipe, it creates the potential for freezing. To make sure pipes are well-insulated, close crawl space vents and stuff insulation over the openings. Even a tiny hole can let a lot of cold air blow in.
Bathrooms and laundry rooms located near garages can be particularly vulnerable to cold. Be sure to keep garage doors close to help maintain maximum heat.
Draining the water from hoses, sprinklers, and swimming pool lines is another easy step to prevent freezing. If your home has a separate shut-off for external faucets, turn it off and drain the water from those faucets.
2. Insulate Pipes
When it comes to pipe insulation, several options exist. These include pipe sleeves, heat tape, or heat cables that can be wrapped around pipes to insulate them from the cold. In a pinch, some homeowners simulate these effects by wrapping newspaper around their pipes.
Additionally, plumbing antifreeze is a product that many employ during the winter. Plumbing antifreeze, a liquid with a lower freezing point than water, is poured into drains to prevent freezing. Just be sure to only use plumbing antifreeze — not automotive antifreeze. Plumbing antifreeze is primarily propylene glycol, while automotive antifreeze is typically composed of the toxic ethylene glycol.
3. Keep the Heat On
Never turn off the heat when you leave home during the winter. Instead, set the temperature to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit (or higher if you’ve had problems in the past or live in an area of extreme cold). If you have multiple heat zones, be sure to adjust all thermostats appropriately.
Many thermostats allow you to pre-set temperatures to suit your schedule: at work, when sleeping, or when traveling. This allows you to keep the heat at a consistent temperature, which not only protects your pipes from freezing but optimizes HVAC efficiency, too!
4. Inspect Your Water Heater
When it comes to winterizing your home, don’t forget your water heater! Insulate the unit as well as pipe sleeves that lead to it. Consider the placement of your water heater. Is it in a heated part of your home, or a chilly basement or outdoor closet? If your unit is not in a heated area of the house, consider having it professionally moved or, at the very least, add extra insulation.
Check exhaust and intake (there are often vents for oxygen intake and for the exhaust that lead outside). If leaves, snow, or rodents block the intake, CO2 can back up into the house or the unit can simply stop working properly and be damaged by the lack of proper flow. Check that these are free of any obstruction. An easy fix is to buy metal mesh covering for openings to prevent anything from entering.
5. Contact a Professional Plumber
The best way to prevent a winter plumbing emergency is to have your system professionally inspected. A certified plumber will inspect potential leaks, cracks, and pipes prone to freezing. Luckily, Ben Franklin services all of the above — and more. It’s never too late to schedule a water heater inspection and tank flush, pipe repair, or even consider a new, more energy-efficient water heater. So you can enjoy all the winter season has to offer without worrying about a plumbing catastrophe.