With winter temperatures in Denver regularly dropping well below freezing, it is vital that you take the proper steps to protect your home’s plumbing. Cold weather can allow water inside your plumbing system to freeze. As water freezes into ice, it expands and can result in the pipe bursting and flooding your home. Luckily, ensuring your pipes can’t freeze and burst is as simple as following all of these tips.
1. Shut Off and Drain All Outdoor Fixtures
Your hose bibs, sprinkler system, and any other outdoor plumbing fixtures are obviously at the biggest risk of freezing and bursting. As such, these should be the first ones you focus on. You’re fine leaving them on during the fall, but you should make sure to take care of them before the first freeze is predicted. If not, even one night of below-freezing temperatures could cause them to burst.
Your hose bibs and outdoor faucets are something that you can take care of on your own. You’ll first want to unhook and roll up any hoses. If you leave a hose connected, it can make it easier for the water line to freeze. The next step is to go inside and close the shut-off valves for each outdoor fixture. Finally, go back outside and turn each hose bib on to drain all of the water out of the line, and then, cover each fixture with an insulating outdoor faucet cover.
Unless you have a heavy-duty air compressor, your sprinkler system is something you will need to hire someone to take care of. Winterizing a sprinkler system involves shutting off the water and then using a compressor to blow air through all of the lines to remove any remaining water. If your system has multiple zones, it zone will need to be blown out independently.
2. Keep Your Pipes Insulated
Any water lines that run through your basement or crawlspace should be fully covered with pipe insulation. This prevents cold air from coming into contact with the pipe. This is important as copper pipes are an extremely poor insulator and can freeze quite quickly if the air surrounding them is too cold.
If your pipes aren’t insulated, you can easily find foam insulation that slips straight onto the pipe. You need to make sure that every pipe is fully covered in insulation with no gaps in between. You should then wrap them with tape to keep the insulation tightly secured.
3. Check for Air Leaks
Any cracks or leaks in your foundation, walls, or around windows and doors can allow enough cold air in for your pipes to freeze. To prevent this, take a walk around the outside of your house and look for any cracks in the concrete just below your siding. You will also want to check inside your basement or crawlspace for the same thing. If you see any cracks or feel any drafts, make sure to seal them up well with caulk or silicone. If the cracks are large, you should probably contact a professional to seal them and make sure your foundation is still in good shape.
If your home has a crawlspace, you also need to fully cover all of the air vents. These vents serve an important purpose during the summer by preventing the crawlspace from getting too humid. However, if you leave them uncovered in the winter, they can let in enough cold air that your pipes may freeze even if they’re insulated.
Lastly, you should also make sure that the weather-stripping around your windows in doors is intact and in good shape and that they are fully sealed both inside and out. Even small air leaks can allow cold air to seep into your walls and freeze any nearby pipes.
4. Always Leave the Heat On
Most experts recommend never setting your heat to lower than 60 degrees whenever below-freezing temperatures are predicted. If the temperature in the home ever drops below 55 degrees, it greatly increases the risk of your pipes freezing.
If the temperature at your thermostat shows 55 degrees, some parts of the home will be much colder. This is especially true in any areas near an exterior wall or anywhere near an air leak. Keeping your thermostat set to 60 should ensure that the temperature in the entire building never gets low enough for your pipes to freeze.
5. Take Extra Precautions During Extreme Cold
The previous tips should be more than sufficient to keep your pipes from freezing and bursting throughout most of the winter. However, you should take additional precautions during extreme cold snaps where the temperature gets near or below zero.
If below-zero temperatures are predicted overnight, you should make sure to slightly open all of your faucets before going to bed. You’ll want to keep them open until things start to warm back up. Your pipes are always full of water whether your faucet is open or not. By leaving your faucets slightly open, your pipes will always have a small amount of water flowing through them. If the water is just sitting in the pipes and not moving, it can freeze quite quickly. Running water, on the other hand, generally won’t freeze easily.
6. Winterize Before Going Away
Unless you have someone who can regularly check on your house, you should always have a plumber winterize your home if you’ll be gone for any longer period. There is always the chance that your heating system could go out when you’re away. If this happens, your pipes could quickly freeze and flood your home or coat everything in ice. Winterizing ensures that all of your water lines and plumbing fixtures are empty so that they can’t freeze.
The process starts with closing your home’s main water shut-off valve. This prevents any water from coming into the home. Next, the plumber will open all faucets, showers, and other fixtures to drain the water lines as well as possible. They will also repeatedly flush the toilet to fully drain the bowl and tank and then shut off and drain your water heater.
When draining your water lines or water heater, every fixture in the house must be left open. If any fixtures remain closed, a vacuum can form and trap water inside the lines. Once the lines are drained, they are then blown out in the same way as a sprinkler system to clear any remaining water.
The last step is to put a small amount of antifreeze down all of your drains. This prevents the water inside the P-traps and other plumbing traps from freezing and causing the pipe to break. If there is still any water in the toilet tank, it also needs antifreeze to prevent it from freezing and cracking the porcelain.
If you have any questions about how to keep your pipes from freezing or need your plumbing winterized, High 5 Plumbing is here to help. We are also available 24/7 to quickly repair any issues if your pipes do freeze and burst this winter. Our licensed plumbers also specialize in drain cleaning, sewer lines, hydro-jetting, and all other plumbing repairs for homes throughout the Denver metro area. If you need any type of plumbing service, give the pros at High 5 Plumbing a call today.