Winter is upon us! The weather will inevitably bring freezing temperatures that have the potential to cause havoc on plumbing systems.
Time to “winterize.” “Winterizing” means: to adapt or prepare something for use in cold weather.
Every year around this time, plumbers are called-out to urgent situations resulting from frozen plumbing. If it gets really bad this winter you may find it more likely to see Santa and his reindeer flying around, than a plumber – because every one of us is busy fixing broken plumbing pipes! Let me assure you, the vast majority of freeze-damaged plumbing is completely avoidable.
Here are a few very basic things that you can do to put you & your home at an advantage:
1) Close or block-off your foundation vents:
2) Turn off the water to exterior hose faucets:
Sometimes this one can be tricky for two reasons: First – do you know where the valve is? Second – the valve may not work properly so you might be in a vulnerable position.
At the very least – remove any garden hoses from the faucets & cover the faucet with something that will insulate & protect it from freezing temperatures. Almost every home center and hardware store sells products made specifically for this.
Any pipes or plumbing fixtures that have the potential to freeze due to exposure should be drained and empty of fluid. It’s actually not the cold that damages pipes – it’s the liquid inside that freezes, expands & tears the pipe or fixture apart. At thaw, the water or liquid becomes fluid again and: “Houston, we have a problem!”
If you’re not sure or don’t have the ability to evacuate exposed plumbing pipes, then try to find a method of providing a heat source to the fixture. A very common product for this is referred to as ” heat tape”. It comes in different sizes, shapes, lengths & brand names, but basically is a cord of some kind that when energized creates resistance heat. Think of a rope wrapped around pipes that you plug-in like your electric heating blanket.
3) Open cabinet doors where plumbing is located on exterior walls:
This will allow a better chance for the heat from the room to convect to the pipes inside the wall.
Why is “winterizing” your home or business so important?
The average cost per emergency service call during a hard-freeze with broken pipes is
$450.00! That’s an average and assumes your paying time-and-a-half or even double-time, travel and service call charges, materials & emergency dispatching fees. That’s also assuming you can actually get a plumber to your door!
Most times when I meet people to repair their emergency freeze-damaged pipes, I tell them: “Had it been winterized it wouldn’t have happened.” The most common response is: “I didn’t even know I was supposed to do that!”
I’ve seen many winters where every plumber in town has an extremely long list, full of customers with emergencies, with many thousands of dollars in property damage. I’ll bet at that moment the nominal fee to have a professional plumber check things out before the freeze would seem like small potatoes!