Preparing your Plumbing System for Winter

3 Dec

It’s already quite chilly at this time of the year, but inclement weather conditions characterized by high winds and frigid temperatures can lead to serious and costly problems for unprotected pipe systems. Any ice that forms in your pipes is a potential disaster, while frozen pipes can crack or burst and spew water and sewer waste inside and around your home.

Hiring a professional plumbing crew to provide plumbing maintenance and repair services can help to fix damages that winter storms may worsen, prevent further deterioration and potential catastrophes, and put your mind at ease. Here are some of the services you can expect when preparing your plumbing system for winter:

Improve Insulation Around Exposed Pipes

Air is constantly in motion, with warm air rising as cool air descends. This phenomenon causes the heated air to escape from the places where you need it most unless the space is well insulated to keep cool air out. Exposed pipes allow heat to escape, and should be properly insulated.

Whether there are new pipes that have been installed outside your home’s original insulation, or some of the existing insulation is worn out, your professional plumber can easily inspect your pipes to determine where additional insulation is needed. This process usually involves the use of plastic or fibreglass pipe wrap to cover the entire surface of the exposed pipes.

Outdoor Plumbing Winterization

Your plumbing is the source of many potential issues during inclement weather, so it’s important to schedule professional annual maintenance to keep your home safe from disaster. Your plumbers will:

  • Look for leaks – Once the weather gets cold, even a tiny leak can lead to disaster. The plumbers will inspect all the pipes outside your home for leaks, and then fix them and insulate the pipes properly.
  • Disconnect garden hoses from the taps – Disconnecting the gardening pipes from the attached taps allow water in the spigot to drain. If you leave the pipes attached, the water inside will freeze, expand, and destroy your pipes.
  • Install an insulated tap jacket – This step comes after disconnecting the pipes, in order to protect taps outside your home and the pipes leading into the house.
  • Winterize the sprinkler system – Any underground irrigation system should be completely drained of all water that can freeze and expand, causing the pipes to burst and the sprinkler heads to explode. In addition, the timer should be turned off and any remaining water in the irrigation system blown out using compressed air, after which insulation can be applied along the piping’s exterior to protect it from extreme winter temperatures.
  • Winterize other water features – Any water features in your backyard, such as an automatic sprinkler system, pool, fountain, or hot tub must be well protected during winter. To maintain a hot tub, the connecting plugs must be released and the drains opened to perform an eyeball test, which is necessary to ensure that there is no water left in the drains.
  • Drain the pool – The pool and connected equipment should be drained every winter, and all filters, pumps, heaters, and chlorinators properly dried to prevent any freezing issues. Professionals use an air compressor to blow out all the water, after which the piping and backflow systems are insulated to protect them from the harsh weather.
  • Close crawl space areas – Your plumbing crew will likely recommend that you keep your crawl space areas properly closed to prevent the entry of arctic winds that may freeze the pipes. If you keep your water heater in the garage, you should also keep the garage door shut to protect it.

Even as you place the safety of your plumbing and home in the hands of professionals, it is important that every person in your home knows the location of the water main shut-off valve. In the unfortunate event that your pipes freeze and burst, you will need to quickly turn off this valve to minimize water damage. You should also turn off the water supply and drain the pipes when travelling.

HVAC System Maintenance

It is important to winterize your air conditioner to ensure it’s functional when you need it. This process involves more than simply draining the air conditioner pipes and shutting off the water valves.

To prepare your HVAC system for the next season, it is important to replace all the filters in the air conditioner, furnace, and humidifier. Any additional service and maintenance work on the furnace and water heater will be done as needed. The professional crew will also inspect the thermostat to ensure that it is functioning well, so you and your loved ones will be warm and cozy all winter.

Emergency Plumbing

It is recommended that you leave your taps running a little during extremely cold weather because moving water cannot freeze. Allowing slow water drips creates enough flow to prevent the water from stagnating, pooling, and freezing.

Keeping the thermostat set high enough also helps to prevent freezing. Thermostat setting of 65°F or higher when leaving your home is sufficient to prevent still water in your pipes from freezing. It may seem wasteful, but it will save you from having to call a technician to thaw frozen pipes.

Make sure to closely monitor the water pressure, as any reduction could indicate restricted water flow due to freezing. Contact your professional plumber as soon as possible to investigate the potential problem spots in the pipes and fix them before serious damage is done.

Final Note

Often times, property and homeowners don’t fully realize the damage done to their plumbing until they attempt to use their outdoor taps for the first time in spring. Sometimes, the issue manifests immediately with damage to your flooring, walls, and personal property, or even unexpected flooding. Such problems cause more than a headache or heartache. They lead to unexpected costs, long conversations with insurance companies, and a sense of despair over how the catastrophe was preventable.

It is important that homeowners and building managers take the necessary steps to winterize their property to prevent potential plumbing disasters. Considering the value of your home and the possessions you’re trying to protect, it’s best to leave the process of winterizing your plumbing and pipes to the professionals while you focus on other preparations for another extremely cold winter.

For professional, experienced, plumbing services, contact Brothers Plumbing online or by telephone at 1-800-741-8471.

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