The Importance of Winter Plumbing Maintenance
It’s tempting to put off home maintenance, including plumbing maintenance. It’s even more tempting to neglect it during the winter when it can take more effort and you might have to venture outdoors in the cold. But winter plumbing maintenance can keep pipes from freezing. Frozen pipes often become burst pipes, and burst pipes can bring flooding, extensive water damage, and the need for expensive water mitigation. It’s worth a little effort and even a bit of discomfort to avoid that kind of headache.
Here, then, are some pointers to help you take care of winter plumbing maintenance with minimum hassle and the best possible chance of avoiding plumbing problems.
Winter Plumbing Maintenance Tips
Know where your house’s main water main is. This is extremely important. Even if you’ve been conscientious about winter plumbing maintenance, plumbing problems can still happen, and you want to be able to shut off the flow of water to the house quickly. Doing so will minimize flooding and water damage and keep you from freezing as you search around in the cold.
Chances are, the main water main is beside the water heater. Closing and reopening it once a year ensures it’s working as it should.
Conduct an inspection before it gets uncomfortably cold out. This is another important piece of advice. As you walk around your home, check all the pipes, taps, showerheads, and similar hardware for leaks, cracking, or anything else that seems to be a warning sign of plumbing problems. Catching and fixing such problems before it gets cold is especially helpful because cold weather is likely to make them worse, more damaging, and more expensive to fix.
Drain the water heater before cold weather arrives. Draining the water heater regularly is good maintenance in any case, but doing so before cold temperatures hit is particularly useful in terms of avoiding plumbing problems. Draining and replacing the water gets rid of built-up sediment that, if left alone, can produce rust, leaks, and/or cracking.
Take care of clogged drains. This is something else that you really should attend to all year round, but it’s especially important in winter because that’s when spillage on the floor can result in even worse water damage.
With luck, you can avoid clogging drains in the first place by being careful about what you put down them. Fats, cooking oils, and food waste are quite likely to clog drains. Hair traps in the shower can prevent hair from clogging that drain, and rinsing the tub thoroughly after a bath is likewise beneficial. Naturally, it also helps to have a professional clean your drains, and winter is a good time to arrange for this service.
Provide more insulation for your home’s pipes. Adding insulation is a good way to avoid frozen pipes and the plumbing problems they can bring. Insulating tape and foam padding sleeves can provide considerable protection at a modest price.
Keep the yard clean. Snow by itself can prevent proper drainage, but it’s far more likely to do so if mixed with leaves, branches, and debris. While it’s still warm, make sure gutters and downspouts are clear so your home has a fighting chance of draining runoff.
Make sure the water heater is set at 120° F. That’s the best temperature to keep it working properly and make it last a long time.
Check the sump pump. If you have an in-home sump pump, make sure it’s operating as it should by dumping in some water. This is another of those plumbing maintenance chores you’ll want to attend to before cold weather arrives to make it unpleasant.
Let faucets drip. To avoid frozen pipes, leave a couple taps open just enough to allow water to drip. This helps to keep pipes from freezing and bursting by relieving the pressure inside them. Admittedly, it will have the unfortunate side effect of increasing your water bill a little, but the added cost will be insignificant, particularly compared to the expense of burst pipes, flooding, and water mitigation.
Consider calling a plumber to inspect your home. Finally, a professional can find plumbing problems you missed and advise you as to the best way to address them, whether that’s attending to additional winter plumbing maintenance yourself or engaging the plumber to make repairs.