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Winter Plumbing Preparation: Staying One Step Ahead of Old Man Winter

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Posted on: November 27, 2018

In the Mid-Atlantic, often times summer temperatures turn off like a spigot and suddenly freezing temperatures are upon us. Burst water mains from the temperature swing cause major headaches for commuters, homeowners and water utility companies.

Preparing your plumbing for the winter will keep your home safe and prevent costly damage.

Why do pipes burst in winter?

When water freezes, it expands. That puts tremendous pressure on the pipes that contain it. No matter plastic or metal, the force of expansion can cause pipes to crack.

Pipes at most risk of bursting are ones that run against the exterior walls of a home that have little insulation. Pipes located in unheated areas such as attics, kitchen cabinets or basements are also at greater risk of cracking. Those pipes that are located outside, such as hose bibbs, swimming pool supply lines and sprinkler lines, are at greatest risk of freezing.

A few things you can do to prepare your indoor plumbing for winter

  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces to raise the temperature of those areas.
  • Keep your garage door closed if you have water supply lines in the garage.
  • Leave your home set to a temperature no lower than 55 degrees if you go out of town.
  • Repair broken windows and doors to help regulate the temperatures inside your home.
  • Let your kitchen or bathroom faucets drip a tiny amount during extreme temperatures to keep water moving through the pipes.
  • Remove all your outdoor hoses from the spigot. Hoses can hold a lot of water and freeze and expand causing damage to the spigot.

How to prepare outdoor faucets for winter

Your outdoor faucets can freeze in winter and cause major damage that far extends into your home. A burst pipe will likely occur in your interior walls and cause hundreds of gallons of water to flood into your home potentially causing structural damage. Bleeding your outdoor lines and turning off the water supply to them can help you avoid a burst outdoor pipe. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Find all your exterior faucets including hose bibbs, sprinkler supply lines and pool water supply lines.
  2. Locate the individual shutoff valve in each supply line, usually found near the main water shutoff valve.
  3. Turn the lever for each valve to the “off” position.
  4. Go outside to each line you shut off and open the faucet. Some water still in the line will drain out.
  5. Return to the shutoff valve and remove the bleeder cap to drain the remaining water out of the pipe catching it in a bucket.
  6. Replace the bleeder cap and turn back off the outdoor faucet.

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission shows you how to do it in this video.

If you think you have a frozen water pipe, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission recommends the following:

  • Completely open the cold water faucet closet to the pipe to relieve the pressure and reduce the chance of the pipe breaking.
  • Using a hair dryer (not a blow torch) you can slowly warm the pipe to thaw it.
  • Call a Len The Plumber expert who can safely thaw your frozen pipe and make sure your other pipes aren’t in danger of doing the same.

Mid-Atlantic winters can be a roller coaster of temperatures which makes it a rough ride for your plumbing. Let the Len The Plumber professionals take care of all your winter plumbing needs.

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