If the deep freeze of winter is right around the corner, there’s no time like the present to prepare your home’s plumbing system for the cold. If you don’t prepare your home for a drop in temperature, water can freeze and break pipes, causing significant damage to the walls, ceilings, and floors of your home. At best, the damage can be inconvenient. At worst, destructive and costly. As a good preventative measure, use our checklist to prepare your home’s plumbing for the winter weather that’s right around the corner.
1. Fix Leaks
If you currently have a leak in your home, it’s best to get the leak fixed before the first snow of the season, as even the smallest leak can turn into a huge problem when the temperatures drop. If you’re already aware of a leak, this step is easy. But if you aren’t, take a walk around the interior and exterior of your home and check for leaks or pools of water, just in case. If you wait for the water to freeze before getting the leak fixed, the damage to the surrounding pipes will be more significant. If your pipes are insulated, you can still check for leaks by feeling for any moisture that may have been soaked up.
2. Set Your Thermostat
If you leave your home, set your thermostat to 65°F or higher. If you’re out of town for more than a few days, set your thermostat to 55°F or higher. While it may seem wasteful, you’ll incur much more expense repairing the damage from a burst pipe than you will on the extra heating. Since prevention and planning are the two key ways to protect your plumbing throughout the winter season, this preventative measure should not be skipped under any circumstances. While you’re at it, reduce the water temperature of the water heater. Chances are, you can the thermostat down a few degrees and still have enough hot water for normal day-to-day use.
3. Drain & Disconnect Hoses
The pipes outside your home are exposed to the most extreme temperatures; therefore, they’re at the greatest risk for freezing. Since they’re the most susceptible to damage, extra measures should be taken to protect your exterior plumbing. You should drain the water from your sprinkler supply lines and swimming pool before the weather gets too cold, but remember: don’t pour antifreeze into the lines, as it’s dangerous to humans, animals, and landscaping. Next, disconnect garden hoses and put them into storage. Close the inside valves and open the hose bibs so the water can drain out. Then, leave them open so any remaining water can expand without breaking the pipe.
4. Don’t Forget the Interior
While outdoor pipes are more susceptible to damage, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to your indoor plumbing. While keeping the thermostat at 55°F is a good preventative measure, you should also add extra insulation to crawl spaces, basements, and attics, check windows and doorframes for drafts, and keep windows and air vents that are located near water pipes closed. While you’re at it, feel for drafts around the chimney case or flue and repair these as soon as possible. If the outdoor temperature is extremely cold, allow cold water to drip from the faucets to keep the line from freezing.
5. Watch for Warning Signs
Even if you’ve taken every precaution, it’s still possible for one or more pipes to freeze. Keep an eye out for reduced water flow, as it’s often the first sign of a frozen pipe. Check faucets before you go to bed and again in the morning to make sure the flow and water pressure have remained consistent. If a pipe appears to be frozen, you can take steps to thaw it. Thawing can be done with a hairdryer, heating pad, or a portable space heater, but use caution when operating these near standing water. If you suspect a frozen pipe but are unable to locate it or thaw it, call a plumber immediately.