Tips to Prep Your Plumbing for Winter

pipe leak

Fayetteville may not experience the brutal winter cold like some northern states do, but that doesn't mean your winterization plan should simply be crossing your fingers that pipes don’t burst. There are things you can, and should, do to prepare your plumbing for winter.

If you’ve ever had a pipe burst due to freezing water then you know what I’m about to tell you is important. And, if you haven’t (YET) then follow these tips to ensure your good luck continues.

Outdoor Faucets

You won’t be doing any yard work during the winter months anyway, so just turn off all outside faucets. Next, you’ll want to get as much water out of the pipe as possible, leave the faucet open so it can drip out.

Shut-off valves with a bleeder valve are the best type to have because you can remove the bleeder cap to drain all the excess water. Leave the cap off with a bucket underneath until the dripping stops.

**If the dripping from the bleeder cap continues, your faucet continues to drip, then you may need to replace your shut-off valve. Since the outside water is off you’ll want to disconnect.

Since the outside water is off you’ll want to disconnect your hose from the faucet. If you store it outside in the cold then you will want to get as much water out of the hose as possible. Just like a pipe, water left in the hose will freeze, and expand, and you’ll be buying a new one come spring. One easy way to drain the hose is to stretch it out on a downward slant (possibly down the driveway) and let gravity do the work. You can also hook it up to an air compressor and blow out the water.

One final tip for outside faucets is to cover them with insulated covers. The covers help slow the heat loss from the pipes coming out of the house and offer a little protection from the cold.

You can find various options at many hardware stores. Like these at Home Depot.

Insulate Pipes

If you have pipes that are exposed to the cold, either in a crawl space, garage, or run along the outside edge of a basement, your inclination may be to simply wrap them in insulation to protect them from the cold. If the cold snap is low and long enough then that may not be enough, the cold air will make its way to the pipe and the insulation will simply keep the cold in and keep warm air out. One thing you can do to protect exposed pipes is to install heat cables or heat tape. Heat cables have a built-in thermostat and run along the pipe, when it senses that the pipe is below freezing it will turn itself on to heat the pipe until the cold snap is over. After you’ve installed the cables you can then add the insulation to the pipes.

Here’s a how-to video to show you how it’s done.

Insulate Garage/Seal Cracks and Holes

If you have exposed water pipes in the garage it would be a good idea to insulate the garage door, and even the whole garage if possible. If there’s an extended cold snap then a portable heater in the garage can help keep the pipes from freezing.

Oftentimes there are small spaces and cracks around pipes and wiring that run into the house, you can use expandable foam to fill those in and not only keep out the cold, but small critters as well.

Extra Tips for Cold Snaps and Vacations

If you are experiencing an extended cold snap, or are going to be out of the home for an extended vacation, the next few tips will help make sure you don’t come home to an internal flood.

  • Set your home’s thermostat to a steady temperature. 
  • Open your cabinet doors. Heat from the home is kept out of cabinets with closed doors, opening them will help the warmth circulate the pipes. You could even use a fan or small heater pointed at the open cabinet if you notice the pipes getting unusually cold. 
  • Leave the faucet running just a bit. Flowing water won’t freeze as quickly, and leaving the faucet as a trickle works as a pressure relief in case the pipe does freeze. **A note on this tip, if the drain is on an exterior wall then having continuous water in that could freeze and block the drain, leading to an overflow.
  • Turn off the main water line to your house. It’s still possible that water left in the pipes can freeze and burst but with the main line off you won’t come home to a flood.

As always, we are here to help with all your plumbing needs, no matter the time of year.

Just give us a call (910) 390-1742.