Winterizing your home’s plumbing is an essential task that prepares your pipes to withstand the harsh winter temperatures that can lead to significant damage to your home’s infrastructure. The importance of preparing your plumbing for winter cannot be overstated; when water freezes, it expands into ice, exerting pressure within pipes that can cause them to burst. Understanding how to winterize your plumbing is crucial to preventing such disasters.
For those who migrate southward to escape the cold—affectionately known as “snowbirds”—taking these precautions is especially recommended. In an unoccupied home, water sits stagnant in pipes, increasing the likelihood of freezing. The winterization process includes draining the water heater, clearing all water from the pipes, and safeguarding all fixtures with an antifreeze solution.
Why Do Pipes Freeze?
Several factors contribute to the risk of frozen pipes, including external temperatures, the efficiency of your HVAC system, insulation quality, and the location of the pipes. Pipes situated in attics, above ceilings, in crawl spaces, basements, and near exterior walls are particularly vulnerable, especially in areas with poor insulation, structural cracks, or openings that permit the ingress of cold air.
During the winter months, it’s crucial to monitor risk-control equipment, such as water-based fire protection systems. Regular testing of these systems is vital, as any ice accumulation can obstruct water flow and impede their operation in an emergency. Maintaining these systems with adequate heat is essential to minimize the risk of injury and damage in the event of a fire.
Where Do Pipes Burst?
Contrary to popular belief, pipes do not always burst where the water has frozen. Instead, pipes typically burst between the frozen blockage and a closed faucet, such as those connected to washing machines or bathroom sinks. The ice blockage causes water pressure to build downstream, and this pressure eventually causes the pipe to fail.
9 Steps to Winterize Your Plumbing
- Create a Comprehensive Checklist: Document all components of your home’s plumbing to ensure no detail is overlooked.
- Shut Off the Main Water Supply: Turn off the water pump and heater to protect the heating elements and prevent overheating.
- Open All Drain Valves and Taps: This prevents vacuums that trap water inside the pipes.
- Expel Remaining Water: Use an air compressor to blow out any remaining water in the pipes.
- Drain the Water Heater: Ensure it’s fully emptied, using a hose if necessary.
- Flush Toilets: Remove as much water as possible and use antifreeze to protect against freezing.
- Protect Sink and Tub Drains: Add antifreeze to prevent freezing and cracking.
- Run the Dishwasher: Clear water from the drain line.
- Flush the Washing Machine Lines: Run a hot and cold water cycle.
Preventing Frozen Pipes
Inspect your home’s plumbing to identify pipes along exterior walls. Insulate these pipes with sleeves or foam insulation, ensuring no gaps are left unprotected. Even plastic piping, which is more freeze-tolerant than copper or steel, requires insulation.
- Seal any cracks or openings with caulk.
- Keep the heat on to protect pipes.
- Allow faucets to drip slightly to prevent pressure build-up.
- Insulate crawl spaces and close exterior vents (remove insulation upon your return).
To Prevent a Burst, Prepare for the Worst
Ensuring your home’s plumbing is properly winterized is crucial for disaster prevention and safety. Regular maintenance can extend the life of your plumbing system.
If you’re uncertain about winterizing your plumbing, schedule service with the experts at John C. Flood. With over a century of experience, we are equipped to handle every plumbing challenge. Regularly scheduled maintenance is our recommendation to maximize the lifespan of your plumbing system. Contact us at 703-214-5611 to ensure your home is winter-ready.