The winter months bring icy temperatures to many parts of the country. This is why many people set aside time during the fall to properly prepare their homes for winter. And one of the most sensitive parts of your home during the winter is plumbing. Frigid temperatures can potentially freeze the water inside your pipes, and since water expands when it freezes, frozen pipes are in danger of bursting. In other words, it puts your entire home in danger of severe and costly water damage. Luckily, you can do many things to protect your pipes from freezing when temperatures plummet. A common misconception is that you need the help of a plumber to protect your pipes. However, you can take many easy DIY precautions to achieve this goal.
The Dangers of Frozen Pipes
This problem is most common with people new to cold climate areas. For example, if you spent your life in a place with warmer weather and suddenly moved to Toronto, you’re likely to be caught off guard by all of your new home maintenance obligations. Hiring movers who can provide you with all the services you need during the process will make moving easy. However, you’ll be faced with a new set of challenges once you’re done moving in. All of this is to say that one of the most common reasons why people are susceptible to plumbing issues during the winter is the fact that they are simply uninformed. This is why before we get into prevention tactics, we should first explain the importance of proper plumbing protection and list some of the biggest dangers of having frozen pipes.
Flooding and Water Damage
As mentioned above, frozen pipes are very susceptible to bursting. They can flood your home and create severe water damage if they do burst. Not only will these repairs be costly, but you might also lose some important possessions.
Health and Safety Hazard
Pipes in uninsulated places in your home, such as the basement, are the most susceptible to freezing. If your basement starts flooding, it can create serious health and safety hazards. Even more, if the foundations of your home’s electrical wiring are located in the basement. Additionally, the excess moisture can later develop mould and bacteria growth.
Draining your Bank Account
While protecting your home and health are the biggest priorities, it’s also essential to consider your bank account. Emergency plumbing services can be costly. Of course, you shouldn’t avoid them when necessary, but it’s much better to do what you can to prevent such a situation.
You won’t have Water for a while
If a frozen pipe is blocked by ice, you may spend a few days without water. And if the pipe bursts, you’ll have to shut off the main water supply for an indefinite amount of time since scheduling a repair might be very difficult. The winter is a busy time for plumbers, so you may have to spend up to a week without water.
Disconnect your Garden Hoses
Outside fixtures are one of the main ways the cold gets into your home’s plumbing system and freezes your pipes. And this is why you must remember to disconnect and drain your garden hoses. You should also shut off any valves that supply outdoor hose faucets and open them to drain the lines. Additionally, you can keep them open so that any remaining water can expand freely. Remember to also repeat this whole process with your sprinkler system. Just make
sure to follow any additional directions outlined in your manufacturer’s guide.
Pro tip: You should also consider buying faucet covers and applying them to your outside faucets as extra protection during the winter.
Seal and Air Leaks
Another thing you can do is inspect your home for any air leaks. These can be cracks in walls or openings that could let in the cold air. After that, you can seal any holes you find that are near the piping in both the exterior and interior walls. Additionally, you can also check the sill plates where your home rests on its foundation. This is one of the more difficult tricks on this list. Most people should be able to do it on their own, but if you’re worried that you might mess it up or you don’t have that much experience with using concrete and patching walls, make sure to consider hiring a pro instead of DIY-ing it.
Pro tip: An open garage door is essentially one massive air leak. So, make sure to always keep it closed during the winter and only open it when you’re going in or out.
Let your Indoor Faucets Drip
A simple way to protect your pipes from freezing is to let the faucets inside your home drip. To preserve water, it’s best to only do this on days with extremely frigid temperatures. A tiny trickle of water dripping from your faucets keeps the water inside your pipe moving throughout the day. This helps prevent freezing since standing water will freeze much easier than moving water. Additionally, this also helps relieve some extra pressure inside your pipes if they do freeze. In other words, even if some of the water in a pipe freezes, the moving water will prevent it from rupturing.
Keep Cabinets and Doors Open in your Home
Another great DIY trick for pipe protection is to expose them to circulating, warm air. You can do this in two steps. By leaving interior doors open, you let cold air circulate more efficiently throughout your entire home. And, if you have any drainage/supply pipes tucked away in kitchen and bathroom cabinets, you should also open their doors. This will expose the pipes to direct warm air.
Avoid Extreme and Sudden Temperature Changes
Setting your thermostat to maintain a consistently warm temperature inside your home is a sure way to protect your pipes from freezing during the winter. During other parts of the year, shutting off or turning down the thermostat during the night and while you’re not in the home is a great way to preserve energy and save on utility bills. However, it’s much more important to keep your pipes ice-free when it’s cold outside. The small amount of money you will be spending on heating bills during those few months is nothing compared to the thousands of dollars you would have to spend on repairs if a pipe were to rupture in your home.
We hope it’s apparent by now that there are many things you can do on your own to prepare your plumbing system for freezing temperatures. Of course, winterizing your home takes a lot of work, and working on how to protect your pipes from freezing is just the beginning. But, with some elbow grease and time, you can ensure that this and all the coming winters go over without a hitch.