Of all the seasons, winter may be the most controversial. While some of us are wearing fifteen layers and dreaming of spring, others are cozying up by the fire and eagerly hoping for snow. Wherever you stand on the issue, winter doesn’t have to be all bad. If you love to ski, love to build a snowman, or just enjoy a cup of tea, there are plenty of things to enjoy during the winter.
Unfortunately, if you are a homeowner — or even if you rent an apartment — there is plenty to worry about in the winter. From hefty electricity bills to preventing those pesky winter drafts, cold weather can bring along a lot of concerns.
But there are no bigger concerns in the winter than your pipes. It’s easy to think your pipes require no maintenance, but if not attended properly, your pipes can freeze solid and turn your winter dreams into winter nightmares. If your pipes freeze, you are looking at hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in damages and weeks to repair the damage. And in the meantime, you may not have access to running water in your home — meaning that previously simple tasks like cooking and bathing are going to contribute to your headache.
Want to avoid costly repairs and a lot of inconvenience? Here are 4 ways to prevent frozen pipes in the winter.
Which Plumbing Is Most at Risk?
A quick note before we dive in. You may assume your indoor plumbing is immune from freezing temperatures, but that isn’t necessarily true. While outdoor pipes like pool lines are the most susceptible, your indoor pipes are just as much at risk. However, pipes that aren’t properly insulated should be the most concerning. This includes pipes in your basement, crawl spaces, and exterior rooms. When it comes to freezing pipes, be sure to pay close attention to these areas in particular.
1. Leave Your Pipes Dripping
It seems absurdly simple, but leaving your pipes dripping is a surefire way to keep them from freezing. Anytime your neighborhood is facing a serious freeze below about 20 degrees Fahrenheit, go through your home and turn all your faucets to a subtle drip to help keep the water inside moving. That gentle flow of water will reduce the chance of freezing and keep the cold from destroying your pipes.
Now, don’t take this tip to mean you need to leave your faucets fully running. Tthat will just jack up the cost of your water bill. In this case, less is more, and even a gentle trickle will do the trick.
2. Regulate Your Heating
If you are concerned about your electricity bills, you might be inspired to just shut your heating off when you are at work or out at the store. This can be a big mistake! Cold snaps and sudden temperature drops can affect your pipes more dramatically than you think. Even if you are only gone for 12 hours, a sudden cold front could quickly freeze your pipes.
The only way to prevent this is to keep your heat at a steady and constant level to prevent any sudden drops in indoor temperature. You don’t have to leave the heat on full-blast, but try not to let internal temps drop below about 55 to 58 degrees Fahrenheit, just to be safe. In this case, an automatic thermostat will be your best friend.
This also goes for longer absences. If you are going to leave for vacation or head to a second home for a few months, you can’t simply turn your heating off and leave. This is a quick way to make your pipes freeze instantly. If you are leaving for days or weeks, you’ll still want to leave your heater on a low baseline to keep the house from getting too cold. (If you’re leaving for even longer, like for months at a time, you may also want to explore shutting off your water entirely.)
3. Keep Exterior Doors Closed (and Interior Doors Open)
If you have a garage or a basement, it’s easy to accidentally leave a door cracked, letting the cold seep into your house and affect your pipes. Ensure external doors are closed at all times. Your pipes (and your heating bill) will both thank you!
But what about interior doors? To save a little money on utilities, it’s quite common for people to close doors and avoid heating unoccupied rooms. However, this can lead to the freezing of pipes in the rest of your house. Leaving internal doors open allows heat to freely circulate throughout your home and keeps all the pipes at a moderate, reasonable temperature to lessen the risk of damage later.
4. Don’t Overlook Insulation
For preventive measures that will protect your home and improve utility bills in the long term, check whether your walls, roof, or pipes are lacking insulation. If so, you should consider fixing the problem sooner rather than later. Exposed pipes under the house or in exterior rooms could freeze if they don’t have the proper insulation. This is especially important if you have an older home. Improper insulation is quite common in older homes and can lead to frozen pipes on a massive scale.
Even if you’re not ready to crack open the walls in a whole-home insulation project, you can help protect your pipes in a more targeted way by hiring a professional to install proper insulation around all the pipes in your home. Or, you can even add some protection yourself — foam pipe insulation is available at most large hardware stores.
Caring for Your Pipes in Every Season
Winter can be a tough time for your home’s plumbing. But did you know that there are other threats to your pipes that can pop up year-round?
One of the biggest threats to the health and longevity of your plumbing is contamination. When the water in your home carries in minerals, chemicals, and heavy metals from outside sources, those contaminants can wreak havoc on your pipes, causing them to corrode over time.
But how can you get cleaner water? With a whole-home water filtration system from The Science of Water, you can not only help protect the condition of your plumbing, but you can also improve the efficiency of your appliances, foster healthier skin and hair, and, of course, enjoy purer, more delicious drinking water.
Want to learn more? Simply contact our team today for more information or to sign up for your free water test.
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