The extreme cold of winter can be hard on your home, making it essential to winterize pipes beforehand. If a pipe freezes, it cannot distribute water and, in a worst-case scenario, it may rupture and potentially cause catastrophic water damage. But you can easily winterize pipes to avoid the stress and expenses of such a situation.

How to Winterize Pipes

Drain Your Pipes

First, turn off the main water valve. Now you can open drain valves and taps in your home, making sure all are open to release any water inside. All taps should be open; if even just one is closed, water could be held in by a vacuum.

On your water heater, open the hot water tank drain valve until the tank is empty. If necessary, connect a garden hose to drain the water. Next, flush toilets to remove as much water as possible from the bowls and tanks. If you can’t get all the water out, add antifreeze to prevent frost damage. Also add antifreeze to sink and tub drains with drain traps; this way, trapped water won’t freeze and traps won’t crack.

Winterizing Your Outdoor Plumbing

Your outdoor plumbing is most exposed to the elements and is quite vulnerable to snow and ice. To protect it:

1. Disconnect and drain exterior hoses so ice doesn’t build up, which can put pressure on indoor water lines.
2. Cut the water supply to outdoor faucets and open taps to drain water, making sure each runs dry before you’re done.
3. Fit outdoor faucet socks onto outdoor pipes to insulate them against freezing temperatures.

Winterizing Your Indoor Plumbing

Cold winter temperatures, especially in Boise, have a way of reaching deep into your home. To protect your indoor plumbing:

  • Leave faucet taps open to let cold water trickle out (even just during a cold snap); this works because moving water doesn’t freeze.
  • Adjust thermostats so that the indoor temperature never falls below 55°; be mindful of weather forecasts that call for extreme temperatures.
  • Keep your garage door closed, which prevents cold air intrusion and can protect plumbing located in exterior walls.
  • Allow warm air to circulate by opening kitchen and bathroom sink cabinet doors (so it can reach pipes), and seal any air leaks with weatherstripping, caulking, and insulation.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing

Check around your home or building to see which pipes are more likely to freeze. Any exposed piping should be insulated using wrapping, insulation sleeves, or slip-on insulation. Older steel or copper water pipes are more susceptible to freezing than plastic ones.

Adequate interior heating is also effective at protecting piping. Make sure your furnace and other heating elements are functioning to effectively protect your pipes. Also, insulate crawl spaces, block vents leading outside (with wood or cardboard), and drain hose bibs (also, cover them for insulation and be sure to turn the shutoff valve off).

Electric heat tape is another way to prevent freezing of pipes. When doing so, follow all U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission safety guidelines, including using only tapes with a 3-prong plug and applying the tape directly to the pipe. Following the latest recommendations can help prevent home fires.

How to Recognize the Signs of Frozen Pipes

If you have a frozen pipe, there may be no water when you turn on a faucet. You might near rushing water even if the tap isn’t on. This is a warning sign of a leak. If you hear running water, turn off the main water valve and call for help.

Schedule an Annual Plumbing Inspection

Prevention is perhaps the best way to winterize your home. A technician from Express Plumbing Heating & Air can inspect and tune up your heating system, evaluate the condition of your plumbing, and make any necessary repairs on the spot. Our team is prepared to help protect your home during the cold Idaho winter (and can help winterize pipes). To schedule service in Boise and the Treasure Valley area, call (208) 398-0309 today.

Brad Jordan

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