Winterizing your home’s plumbing is a chore that prepares your pipes to withstand freezing temperatures that can cause damage to your home’s infrastructure. It’s important to prepare your plumbing for winter because when liquid water freezes, it expands as it becomes ice. This expansion produces pressure within pipes which can lead to your pipes bursting. Learn how to winterize plumbing and prevent this disaster.
If you’re a snow bird and will be leaving your home up north to seek out warmer climates for an extended period of time, it’s recommended to take these precautions and winterize your plumbing. Without occupants in the house running water, the liquid will sit stagnant in the pipes and be much more likely to freeze. The winterizing process involves draining the water heater, emptying all water from the pipes, and filling all fixtures with antifreeze solution.
Why Do Pipes Freeze?
Outside temperatures, HVAC efficiency, insulation, and pipe placement are all factors that can affect the susceptibility of your pipes to freezing. Pipes that are located in the attic, above ceilings, in crawl spaces, basements, and near exterior walls are the most at risk to freezing, especially where there is poor insulation, cracks in the home’s structure, or other apertures that allow entry of cold outside air and create drafts.
Throughout the duration of winter, key an eye on risk-control equipment, such as water-based fire protection systems (automatic sprinkler systems, fire pumps, and hoses). It’s important to regularly test these safety features because any ice build-up can prevent water flow, preventing proper operation during an emergency. To minimize risk of injury and damages in the event of a fire, these systems must be maintained with heat.
Where Do Pipes Burst?
It’s a common misconception that pipes burst at the location where the water is frozen. Pipes burst somewhere between the frozen water and a closed faucet, such as the washing machine or bathroom sink. A complete ice blockage in a pipe leads to continued freezing and expansion inside the pipe causes water pressure to increase downstream. This pressure is what eventually leads the pipe material to fail and burst.
When the pressure builds due to ice expansion, the water has nowhere to go but through the pipe walls. This can lead to extensive water damage inside your home, which is why it’s critical to prepare your plumbing for winter. People choose to winterize their home’s plumbing to prevent frozen pipes. The task can be frustrating but save you a winter nightmare down the road.
9 Steps On How To Winterize Plumbing
1.) Compile a list of all aspects of your home’s plumbing, including all taps and valves. This checklist will be a helpful guide to make sure you don’t miss any small detail that could end up as a costly repair.
2.) Shut off the main water valve. Turn off the water pump and water heater to protect the heating elements inside and prevent your water heater from overheating down the road. This will keep your water heater healthy when there is no water inside the tank.
3.) Open all drain valves and taps in your plumbing system. A drain valve is used for the purpose of emptying or cleaning the water storage tank. It’s important to consult your list of taps and valves to make sure you don’t miss one. A closed tap will create a vacuum that will keep water inside the pipes and prevent it from draining. Every valve and tap should remain open throughout the duration of winter. If you cannot if your home’s taps and valves, contact a professional plumber for help.
4.) Blow out any remaining standing water from your pipes using an air compressor. This will ensure no remaining water will be left pooled in your plumbing system.
5.) Drain the water in your hot water tank. Open up the drain valve and let it fully empty. If your hot water tank doesn’t have a floor drain, connect a garden hose to it to funnel out the water. While you’re at it, make sure to properly disconnect your garden hose for winter.
6.) If you’re leaving for an extended period of time, flush toilets to remove as much water as you can from the tanks and the toilet bowls. If there is remaining water that cannot be emptied, add antifreeze to prevent the water from freezing and cracking the toilet.
7.) Check the drains in all sinks and tubs. If there is a drain trap, add antifreeze on each one of them to prevent water from freezing and cracking the trap.
8.) Run the dishwasher to clear water from the drain line.
9.) Turn on both a hot and cold-water cycle on the washing machine to flush out the lines.
How to Prevent Freezing Pipes
Inspect the anatomy of your home’s plumbing to identify what pipes run along the exterior of your home. These pipes will be the most vulnerable to the harsh elements during winter. If you have enough time to check the conditions of the building's plumbing, identify the pipes most vulnerable to freezing. Flag any pipes located outside walls and windows and uninsulated pipes.
Follow these steps to prepare your plumbing for winter:
- Insulate pipes with insulation sleeves, wrapping or slip-on foam pipe insulation. Double check to make sure you don’t leave any gaps in the pipe without protection. The smallest bit of exposure can freeze your pipes. Plastic piping is more tolerant of freezing than old copper or steel water pipes, but still be proactive in insulating plastic piping as well.
- To avoid and fix frozen pipes before they happen, it’s important to check for any cracks or openings in walls, floors, and ceilings. While taking precautionary measures, caulk any holes or gaps you find during your inspection 一 no matter how small!
- Continuously keep the heat on inside your home to protect pipes from the elements. A home can quickly feel as cold as the air outside with the heat off.
- Turn your faucet on slightly to allow the water to move freely and not freezing. Even a small drip can prevent a pressure build-up, and subsequent burst, if your pipes do freeze.
- Make sure the crawl space is properly insulated. Close and insulate all vents that lead outside while you’re away from your home. Just remember to remove this insulation when you return.
To Prevent A Burst, Prepare For The Worst
Make sure that your home’s plumbing is properly winterized and maintained to prevent any possible disasters from happening down the road. Not only will this save you money in the long run, but it will also help to keep your family safe while you are all enjoying the chilly season in the comfort of your residence.
If you are unsure how to winterize your plumbing and protect your home from the elements, be sure to schedule service with the experts at John C. Flood as soon as possible. Choosing the best plumber for your home isn’t hard! John C. Flood has over 100 years of experience in handling every type of plumbing problem. We recommend regularly scheduled maintenance to maximize the lifespan of your plumbing system. Call us at (703) 440-7460 today to make sure your home is ready for winter.