Imagine this winter, cozily sitting at home by the fire, looking out the window at the falling snowflakes while you’re sipping your hot cocoa with marshmallows. Life is good. It’s good until you suddenly hear the loud rush of water somewhere in your home, that is. You’ve got burst pipes. Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common here in Anchorage, despite it being easily preventable. Before the temperatures dip below that 32-degree Fahrenheit mark on the thermometer, follow the plumbing-preparation recommendations from our professionals here at Alkota Plumbing and Heating, and you’ll be on your way to ensuring that life stays good.
Follow the tips below before the cold sets in, and your plumbing should make it through the winter like a champ, preventing you costly repairs and aggravating headaches.
Outdoor spigots (also called hose bibbs).
Well before the first freeze of the season, bleed your outdoor spigots of any residual water. Then shut the water off. Even though these spigots are outdoors, if they burst, your whole house suffers. In the event you have outdoor pipes that you can’t shut off, insulate them with heat tape, available at most DIY and hardware stores and/or consider replacing them with frost-free models.
Pipes/plumbing in unheated areas or near exterior walls.
Wrap any exposed pipes with pipe insulation or heat tape. Pipes especially affected are those located in crawl spaces, garages, or in/near exterior walls. This issue is particularly troublesome for mobile homes. If possible, try to add insulation or extra insulation to the exterior walls to help protect those pipes. Burst pipes in walls are both very messy and very expensive.
All indoor plumbing.
During especially cold nights, consider keeping your room-temperature water running in all the faucets (including showers) throughout the night. Keep it running at just above a trickle. Also, opening your cabinet doors to expose your pipes to the house warmth can additionally help. This trick is highly recommended for any bathrooms with plumbing located in exterior walls. If your pipes have a history of freezing in a bathroom, try adding a space heater to the process and closing the door during the night. (Always monitor space-heater use.)
Pipes with leaks.
Any existing leaks you may have, no matter how small, need to be repaired before the colder temps. A deep freeze can turn a small leak into a large rupture.
Now’s the best time to have your water heater checked and flushed. Sediment builds up over time, so having it drained and flushed can ensure you’ll have hot water during the winter. It may even be a good idea to schedule your annual plumbing inspection for the same time to alert you to any issues you may have.
If you have a well pump, you need to take steps to insulate it to prevent frozen or burst pipes. The best scenario is to have a well house or permanent covering for it. Even with the housing, you may need to keep a small amount of water continuously running in very low temperatures. Also providing additional heat, like using a 100-watt lightbulb, can prevent freezing in the lower numbers. If your pump has a well cover, open the cover and lay a sheet of insulation around the well head and plumbing. Replace the cover, and check that air can’t blow in. You can ensure this by scraping a ring of dirt around the cover’s perimeter and packing it down. If you don’t have a well house or permanent covering, first cover the pressure tank and plumbing with large insulation sheets, checking that no part is left exposed. Then cover it with a barrel or large, plastic garbage can, or even a large tarp weighed down. If you prefer not to use the insulation sheets, you can spray foam insulation inside the barrel or can, and place it directly over the pump. Be sure to put something heavy on top of the barrel or can, adding wooden stakes for side supports to prevent a tip over. Be sure to call our plumbers if you prefer assistance or advice.
Check your sump pump to be sure it’s working correctly. Remove the lid and look in the well. You want to check to be sure it’s clean and everything’s draining correctly––no clogs. You can pour water into the pit yourself to check the drainage.
Entire house when traveling.
When leaving for an extended time, your first inclination may be to turn your heat way down to save energy. But your plumbing needs your furnace to remain at a minimum of 55 degrees Fahrenheit to keep your pipes from freezing. Consult our plumbers to discuss the possibility of turning off all the water while you’re away, as this option has both pros and cons.
Taking the time to prep your home’s plumbing for the winter will give you peace of mind. This is the kind of peace that comes with knowing you’ll be spending your money on the things you want––like extra marshmallows––and not on unexpected and costly plumbing repairs. Call our Alkota plumbers at 907-332-5325 to assist you in winterizing your home’s plumbing today.