Believe it or not, many people think of winter as their favorite time of the year, especially when they live in places where the winters are generally mild and lovely.
However, for those who have to deal with temperatures that drop close to or way below freezing, winter brings with it a lot of unpleasant stuff.
There’s the bitter cold, for one thing, that typically requires an optimally-functioning heating system to live through.
Then there are the plumbing problems that can drive any sane person bonkers if they occur in the middle of a raging blizzard.
It’s hard enough to find a decent plumbing service in normal weather. Imagine if you had to look for one while the streets are buried in inches of snow.
That said, it is of paramount importance that your plumbing has to be ready for winter long before winter comes. Here are some of the things you have to do to avoid plumbing emergencies from occurring as the mercury in your thermometer takes a dive toward or even beyond zero.
Insulate your pipes
Your pipes contain water, and the freezing temperatures can easily turn every drop into ice, especially water inside exposed pipes. The ice will then expand, push against the pipes, and cause them to crack. It will only be a matter of time before the pipes eventually burst.
If you live in a region where subzero temperatures are par for the course during winter, then you must insulate your pipes, particularly the ones whose metal you can actually see. You can get a plumber to do this for you, or you can do it the DIY way. There are a number of materials you can use, including spiral-wrap insulation, fiberglass insulation, and foam pipe covers.
Let a few faucets drip
Photo by Doladimeji (Public domain)
We all have to conserve water, but if you live in frigid areas, then you get a free pass because you might need to keep your faucets trickling just a little bit during the coldest weeks of the season. By letting a few faucets drip, you are relieving some of the pressure on the pipes and preventing the water inside them from freezing at the same time.
Doing this will obviously cause an uptick in your water bill, but that tiny increase is preferable than having to replace burst pipes.
Put hoses away
If you use a hose for your garden or lawn, disconnect it from the faucet then put it in storage by the time winter arrives. If you fail to do so or simply forget about it, then all the insulation you just did on your exposed pipes will be all for nothing.
You see, hoses, like pipes, are filled with water. Leave it connected to a faucet, and the cold will freeze not just the water inside the hose, but any amount of water inside the faucet and its pipe as well.
Do a water heater inspection
Bathing or showering is virtually impossible when it’s freezing, and there’s something wrong with your water heater. To keep those warm baths and showers going even at subzero temperatures, make sure you check your water heater for signs of sediment buildup, corrosion, and rust formation. You wouldn’t want rust to cause cracks in the metal of your tank and lead to leaks that will waste and eventually exhaust your hot water supply fast. You can do the checking yourself, or you can ask a plumbing professional to inspect or perform any necessary maintenance work on your water heater.
Clear your drains
Let’s not forget that drains are pipes, too, and on days that are unusually cold, they can freeze as well. If you think frozen water inside your pipes is bad, then imagine how much worse a frozen mixture of water and gunk would be.
As much as possible, your drains must be clear of even the smallest blockage, because standing water, no matter how little the amount, could freeze and eventually damage your drain pipes. Have your drains cleared before winter comes around, and avoid what could only be a full-blown major plumbing emergency.
It would also be wise if you stop pouring used oil or grease down the drain. They congeal easily enough inside the drain pipes in warmer weather. The bitter cold of winter will turn them into rock-hard blockages that will cause you a lot of problems.
Clean your yard and gutters
Clear your yard and gutters of leaves, tree branches, and all manner of debris. You wouldn’t want them trapped under several inches of snow and causing drainage problems. Better do it before the snow falls, because it would be harder to work outside when it’s too cold.
Off to a holiday? Keep the heat running or shut off the water!
If you’re going on a vacation to escape the winter, you have two options: You can leave your home heating system running with the thermostat set high enough to prevent freezing, or you can just shut off the water and drain the pipes. Either way, you’re assured you won’t be coming home to frozen plumbing a week or two later.
Taking preventive steps like the ones listed above to avoid winter plumbing problems is a good thing. While plumbing problems could still occur even with all the measures you have taken, you can at least reduce the chances of such problems happening.