Now that winter has settled in, and especially with sub-zero overnights common in January, some extra attention to your plumbing will pay off. If you’ve ever had frozen pipes you know how damaging they can be – pipe replacement for sure, and sometimes causing flooding. Especially if your house is older and has water supply pipes running along an exterior wall, these steps will help prevent a catastrophe.
1. Make sure outdoor faucets are off and drained. Locate all your outdoor faucet shut-off valves in the basement and make sure they are closed. If your garage is detached and/or unheated, check the faucets in the garage as well. Pictured on the left are the main types of shut off valve. If you have a ball valve, turn the lever perpendicular to the water pipe to shut if off. If you have a gate valve, turn the circular valve clockwise until it’s snug. Don’t over-tighten.
2. Keep your garage doors closed. You’d be surprised how much cold air comes into your house from an open garage door.
3. Keep kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open. For all under-sink cabinets, if it’s going to be below 20 degrees outside, you may want to open your cabinet doors to keep the water supply pipes a little warmer from the house’s ambient air.
4. Keep a drip or trickle of cold water flowing. If you’ve had frozen pipes in the past, consider opening any problem faucet to let a small amount of water to flow. Running water will not freeze as easily as stagnant water. Sub-zero nights are not the time to think only about saving water.
5. Keep your house thermostat up all night. You’ll want to forego the few dollars you save by turning the thermostat down at night. Keep the whole house a little warmer on sub-zero nights. If you plan to take a trip, don’t turn the thermostat below 55 degrees when you leave. You may want to ask a neighbor to check your house if the weather turns really frigid.
6. Add insulation to your pipes. The real prevention comes with insulating exposed pipes, especially if they’ve been a problem in the past. A trip to your local hardware store or home improvement center will help you to choose insulation for your pipes, and give you tips for installing it. Bonus: adding insulation to your attic, basement, and crawl spaces will help keep winter on the outside of your house and lower energy costs.
-Deb at Jake the Plumber