It's officially that time of year, again! Yes, it's time to break out the Christmas tree. But more importantly, it's also time to start weatherizing your home. You want to do that now, before it's unbearably cold and before your crawlspace is flooded with icy water.
While we're glad to show up in the middle of the night to help diagnose and resolve frozen underground pipe emergencies, you can save yourself time and money by planning ahead and investing a couple hours in preventative maintenance. We've collected ten winter weatherization tips to ensure that your holiday season remains festive and fun.
1. Shut off and drain your outdoor plumbing.
Whether it's a swimming pool, a hot tub, or a sprinkler system, your outdoor plumbing is often the first to freeze. Water happens to be one of the few liquids that expands rather than contracts as it freezes, putting tremendous pressure on even the strongest metallic pipes.
Do your research, find your manuals, or schedule a plumber to visit and guarantee that you've winterized your outdoor plumbing. It's a big hassle, and can cost some money, but a daytime hassle when it's 50°F outside is way better than a midnight hassle when it's -5°F and there's a foot of snow on the ground. It's a lot cheaper in the long run, too.
2. Insulate and air seal underground spaces.
If you've lived in the house for a while, you may already know where the danger zones for pipes freezing up are. If you haven't, call up your landlord or the former owner if you can and ask them if there are any known problem areas. Generally speaking, the outside-facing walls and the basements or crawlspaces are typically the most vulnerable points in the plumbing system.
Once you've identified those areas, audit the plumbing to ensure that it's well-insulated. If it's not insulated, or the insulation's insufficient, pick up some fiberglass pipe insulation and perhaps some foam board to protect your pipes from cold air. For especially vulnerable pipes, you can also install an electric heating cable that goes along the pipe and keeps it toasty on even the coldest nights.
Some homeowners have success with intelligently positioned space heaters. Be wary of this strategy. If the pipes do end up freezing and bursting, then you'll have yourself a plumbing crisis and a potentially deadly electrical problem, too!
3. Find and test your main water valve.
Many homeowners and renters take their plumbing for granted, and don't even know where their main water valve is or how to shut it off in an emergency. Don't be one of those people. Knowing where the main water valve is can be the difference between an irritating midnight crisis and a full-blown disaster. Seconds count when frigid water is gushing into your crawlspace.
4. Store up some water for an emergency.
This doesn't exactly weatherize your pipes, but it can make life easier if there's a water pipe emergency. Storing several gallons of fresh drinkable water isn't just for doomsday preppers and Mormons. A supply of fresh water is not only handy for if your pipes freeze in the winter. It's also handy to have on hand in case there's a problem with the public utility water supply, a natural disaster, or even that doomsday scenario your uncle's been warning you about.
5. Crank up the heat on the coldest nights.
A lot of homeowners wisely turn their heat way down and double up on blankets in the winter to save money. This can backfire and cost money on the coldest nights. If an especially sharp drop in temperature threatens your pipes, crank the heat up as warm as you can stand it.
6. Circulate the warm air.
After cranking up the thermostat, open the cabinets under the kitchen and bathroom sinks so that the warm air you're pumping through your house can reach those pipes. This is especially important for plumbing on outside-facing walls. Additionally, keep your basement door open to ensure that the warm air gets where it's needed most.
Note: If you have pets or children, be sure to keep them away from any dangerous household chemicals which are often stored under the kitchen and bathroom sinks.
7. Steadily drip your pipes.
Water that's still freezes much faster than water in motion, even if it's only a little bit of motion. Leaving your faucets trickling overnight might run your water bill a couple bucks, but it can save you thousands of bucks if it prevents a busted pipe. Doing this also comes in handy, since an open pipe which stops dripping can alert you to a freezing pipe before it bursts.
8. Turn off your main water valve.
You did Step 4 before cold weather set in, right? Right? Good deal. You know exactly where your main water valve is and how to shut it off. The minute you've confirmed that your pipes are freezing up, turn it off to minimize water damage to your home, then call a plumber and rely on the water you stored up in Step 3.
You did Step 3, right?
9. Move to Florida.
It hardly ever freezes in South Florida, and homeowners barely give a thought to winter weatherizing their pipes. Of course, you'll have to contend with hurricane preparation, alligator awareness, shark safety, poisonous jellyfish, and Miami rush hour traffic.
On second thought, just take a few hours this week to weatherproof your current home.
10. Call Blood Hound
Many homeowners are clueless about the underground utilities on their property. If you live in our (rapidly growing!) Midwestern footprint, give us a call to learn more about how you can protect your real estate investment with our private underground utility locating and reporting services.
Our highly trained, skilled, and experienced utility locating technicians rely on the latest ground-penetrating radar (GPR) technology to help homeowners diagnose and correct plumbing and utility issues before they become expensive problems.
We can be reached at any hour of the day or night at 888.858.9830.
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