How to Winterize Your Home's Plumbing

Each year, thousands of Chicago area homeowners experience problems with pipes in their homes freezing and bursting. Some colder weather plumbing problems can be avoided when a homeowner does what is necessary to winterize plumbing in their house.

Wrap Pipes

With winterizing plumbing, it is important to wrap pipes in any area of your home left unheated. Pipe insulation, as well as heat tape, can be purchased at a local hardware store. Ready-made kits are usually available that make it easy to install insulation where necessary.

Check Water Pressure

It is possible to check a home's water pressure with a gauge that can be purchased from a local hardware store. Many experts recommend a home's water pressure be between 40 and 80 pounds per inch (PPI). Should your home not have proper water pressure, it’s best to contact a plumber for an inspection. Excessive water pressure can damage pipes as well as faucets, valves and cause a problem with excessive leakage.

Winter Travel

Traveling during the winter months is common, and keeping your plumbing in-check while away likely isn’t at the top of your list. It is possible to have an inaccurate weather prediction result in a home experiencing colder weather than anticipated. Nobody wants to go on a trip and worry about their home. There are some things a plumber will recommend a homeowner do to minimize potential plumbing problems when they are traveling.

  • Drain all the water out of the home's pipes. This can be done by turning off a home's main water supply and opening all spigots and faucets in your home until the water stops coming out. This Old House has a great tutorial on how to drain your home's pipes, viewable here.

  • Maintain the home's heat a bit above where it is normally kept. This will help prevent pipes from freezing. It will also make certain your home's indoor air temperature is always above freezing.

  • The main water supply for a home should remain turned off until you return home.

Water Heater

Should your water heater break in the middle of the winter, it will eliminate the ability to have access to hot water and can cause issues with freezing pipes. A standard water heater usually needs to be replaced every 12 years. A quick inspection from a plumber can give you insight if your water heater is at the end of its life, and offer recommendations for replacement and repair. Doing this will also avoid the chance of having a water heater burst and flood a basement, laundry room or garage when the temperature outside is close-to and below freezing.

Sump Pump

A sump pump will help protect a home should there be flooding in the basement, if a pipe has burst or leaking has occurred. When a home has a sump pump, it is important to make certain it is in good, working order prior to cold temperatures arriving. A plumber can examine a sump pump and make certain it is ready for the winter.

Faucet Dripping

Leaving a faucet drip when temperatures are around and below freezing is part of winterizing plumbing and could prevent pipes from bursting. There are three things that will have to happen to make this effective.

  • It has to be done at the right time. Many plumbing experts recommend doing this when the temperature goes below 20 degrees, but once the temperature drops close to freezing, it’s time to consider an inspection.
  • The second thing is to use a faucet that is the longest distance from a home's main water entry point.
  • The third thing is to realize this won't keep pipes from freezing. It can prevent frozen pipes from bursting. This happens when the water inside a pipe freezes and expands. A drip in the faucet will prevent a pipe from retaining water.

Run Water And Open Cabinets

When it is very cold outside, it is recommended homeowners run water and open the cabinets in their house. A professional plumber will recommend this to permit warm air in a home to circulate around pipes. This is especially good for pipes located under sinks and in hard-to-reach areas.

Drain Sprinkler System

When a home has a sprinkler system, it is important to drain it prior to the arrival of cold temperatures. This is also part of winterizing plumbing and will require removing all water in the pipes of the sprinkler system. Doing this significantly decreases the changes of these pipes rupturing during the winter. All water hoses should be drained and stored indoors before the winter months arrive.

Making sure your home's plumbing gets through the cold winter months without any problems is important. It's possible to not be aware of everything involved with preparing your house for temperatures that go below freezing. Most homeowners benefit from having plumbing professionals inspect their home prior to the arrival of cold temperatures. A licensed plumber will be able to detect any possible problems and correct them quickly and efficiently, keeping you from costs further down the road.  

Flatley's Plumbing Express has the plumbing knowledge and experience necessary to identify any potential issues. Call us today to schedule your in-home inspection!

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