Plumbing Tips to Get Ready for the Cold

Brrrr! It’s starting to get pretty cool at night and you know how cold it can get here in the PNW throughout the fall and winter months. With that being said there’s nothing worse than having your pipes freeze when warm water is wanted most… or even worse – burst! Here are a few tips to prevent your pipes from freezing.

  1. Insulate your pipes

The best way to keep your pipes from freezing is to purchase piping insulation. Pipe insulation is an affordable way to keep your pipes from bursting, and it’s a lot cheaper than the repair costs of a burst water pipe. When insulating your water system, pay particular attention to pipes in unheated interior spaces of your home, such as in your attic, garage, or basement. The most common kinds of pipe insulation are made from fiberglass, polyethylene, or foam. If a winter storm is coming and you need emergency insulation, you can use duct tape and wadded-up newspaper for a temporary fix.

  1. Keep your garage door closed

One way to keep your pipes from freezing is to keep your garage door closed, especially if your water supply goes through the garage. Typically, garages have a ton of smooth concrete, which keeps the space cold. It’s already cold enough without letting in more freezing air, which will drop the overall temperature of the garage.

  1. Dripping faucets and open cabinets

If you haven’t heard it from your mom or grandma, then we’re here to tell you. Let your faucet drip overnight to prevent your pipes from freezing. This traditional tactic paired with keeping your cabinets under the sink open can save you from a plumbing disaster. The running water and heated air will help prevent ice blockages and pressure buildups in the pipes.

You don’t have to turn on all the faucets in your home. Figure out which ones are fed by exposed piping. Once you’ve narrowed it down, leave these faucets dripping especially in really cold weather. Running water, even a small trickle, creates heat from friction and carries more internal energy than standing water making it harder to freeze.

  1. Keep the thermostat consistent

One of the best ways to prevent ice blockages is to keep your thermostat set to the same temperature during the day and at night. While many homeowners tend to lower their thermostats during the evening to save money on their heating bill, this might backfire and cost more in the long run if a pipe does happen to burst. 

  1. Seal cracks and openings

Inspect your home for any holes, cracks, or openings before winter to stop any drafts from freezing your water system. Check around windows and door frames and examine any cable holes in your walls and floors, like ones for your TV, WiFi, or cable. Seal any openings around the sill plates, where your house rests on its foundation. Caulk any cracks or holes directly around piping, both on exterior and interior walls. This helps keep warm air inside, prevents ice blockages, and it will increase your home’s insulation.

  1. Leave the heat on

If you plan on leaving your home during the winter, make sure you leave your heat on at least 55 degrees while you’re away. Turning on the heat for an empty house may seem counterintuitive, but while a lower temperature may reduce your heating bill, it could mean disaster if cold temperatures hit, and your pipes freeze or burst.

  1. Seal crawl spaces

If we happen to get a really bitter PNW winter, you might need to temporarily cover any ventilated crawl spaces in your home. Covering crawl spaces can reduce the amount of cold air surrounding your pipes. To seal your crawl space, use foam pieces cut to the dimension of the vents. Secure them in place with duct tape, and there you have it. An efficient and inexpensive solution for cold winter nights!

  1. Use heat tape

For piping systems that are easily accessible, you can put electrical heat tape directly on your pipes to help them retain heat. There are two different kinds of heat tape you can use — self-monitoring and manual. The first type of heat tape has a sensor and turns on and off by itself whenever it senses that the pipe needs more heat. The manual type of heat tape requires you to plug it in whenever heat is needed and unplug it once the pipe is warm.

Like any heating system, electrical heat tape can be dangerous. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety procedures when applying it to your pipe systems.

If you want to be proactive before it really starts to get cold, give us a call and we can come inspect your water and piping systems to give you more tips and pointers on how to prevent a plumbing disaster this winter! (509) 535-3447 for service in Washington, or (208) 649-9991 for Idaho.

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