By Elvis Neckles
Winterizing your home’s plumbing system is a procedure for preparing the pipes in your home for freezing temperatures that can cause leaks and breaks. As water freezes, it expands then it becomes ice. This expansion produces pressure within pipes, which causes damage.
It is wise to winterize your home, especially if you will be on a long vacation during the winter, or if you expect your home to be vacant for a long period of time.
Start the winterizing process with a plan. Make a checklist of all the plumbing parts in your home to include Taps, Valves, and water heaters. This way you do not miss anything.
• Insulate pipes with insulation sleeves, wrapping or using slip-on foam pipe insulation. Do not leave any gaps without insulation as cold air can affect the pipe in these spaces. Plastic piping is more tolerant of freezing than old copper or steel water pipes.
• Check the exterior of your home or business, making sure that all visible cracks are sealed. Cold air can enter through the cracks and, once inside, it will cause your pipe to freeze. If visible cracks are noticed, seal them using caulking or spray foam to fill the voids.
• Maintain a heating source inside the home or building where possible to protect pipes against cold.
• Allow your faucets to drip by opening them slightly thereby allowing the water to move freely and continuously, preventing it from freezing.
• If you have a crawl space, then make sure the crawl space is properly insulated. Block all vents that lead to the outside using cardboard or wood. Have a professional install a vapor barrier.
• Don’t forget your hose bibs. Hose bibs are normally left unattended, causing them to burst in the middle of the night. Drain hose bibs and insulate with covers. Once this has been completed, deactivate bibs at the shutoff valve.
• If you are going to be away for a long time, shut off the main water valve. Drain and turn off the water heater. It will protect heating elements in the water heater when there is no water inside the tank.
• Don’t forget, open all drain valves and all taps. Check off each on your list, so you are sure all taps are open. A closed tap could create a vacuum that will hold water inside of pipes. All valves and taps should remain open throughout the winter.
• Install heat tape to protect pipes from freezing. Heat tape is one of the preferred methods for winterizing plumbing but be aware that these might bring additional hazards. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has provided safety recommendations for homeowners using heat tapes to help prevent fires.
If you use electric heat tapes or pipe heating cables under your home to protect pipes from freezing, government safety experts want you to check the tapes or cables now for possible fire hazards before winter sets in.
The U.S. CPSC said heat tapes and pipe heating cables should be inspected each fall for hazards which could trigger a fire. CPSC said tapes and cables are involved in some 3,300 residential fires each year.