How to Protect Your Plumbing Over the Winter in California
Winter in California can come with freezing temperatures and high water levels. Your plumbing can be affected if you don’t take the proper steps to prepare it for the coming season. Here is a look at some of the winterization tasks that you can do to prepare.
Insulate Your Pipes
Insulation reduces the heat gain and loss of your pipes, which protects them from extreme weather. The hot water that travels through your pipes stays hotter as well. You’ll save energy by insulating your pipes, and you won’t have to wait as long for hot water. That extra minute while you’re running the faucet and waiting on hot water, makes a difference in both your finances and your time.
If your pipes get cold enough to freeze, the water inside them will expand, often beyond the diameter of your plumbing system. Frozen pipes can cause costly damage if they result in bursting. They also prevent you from having running water in your home. The most likely place that pipes freeze is in locations where they are exposed to open air. This may be outdoor pipes and faucets or stretches that travel through uninsulated attics, garages or crawl spaces.
Know How to Thaw Correctly
Never use a flame torch or any form of open flame to thaw pipes. Sudden changes in temperature can cause explosions. You might also accidentally start a fire. The correct way to thaw pipes is to apply heat tape, use a hair dryer or use a space heater. Begin by applying heat near the faucet, and gradually work your way down. Open the cabinets in your home to assist in thawing the pipes faster.
Know Where All of Your Water Shut-Off Valves Are
For emergency situations, you should know where the water shut-off valves are. There is a main water shut-off valve that will stop the flow of water to everything in your home. Some plumbing installations in your home, like sinks and toilets, have their own shut-off valves too. This is convenient for situations in which you have a problem just from that application.
You should turn off the water valve and turn on the faucets when your pipes freeze to protect your home. The pipes bursting can flood your property. Once you have thawed them, the water will likely drain out without causing a rupture. Pressure between the frozen pipes and closed faucet is what typically causes the burst. You’ll usually find the main water valve by the water meter, which is probably around the sub-area of your house. If it’s not by the crawl space outside your house, then check the basement and garage.
Some valves are wheels, but others are handles. Before winter begins, you should add a few drops of household oil to the shut-off valve’s handle threads to ensure it will turn smoothly and to prevent corrosion.
Plumbing fixtures that may have their own water shut-off valves include dishwashers, toilets, sinks and hot water heaters. If you have a plumbing problem with just one fixture, you can cut off water to it rather than shutting off all water for the house.
Some old homes don’t have a main water shut-off valve. If your home is missing this critical emergency feature, then you should have a main valve installed in preparation for winter.
Clean the Gutters, Downspouts and Storm Drain
Leaves, twigs, seeds and other debris in your roof’s gutters, downspouts and storm drain can lead to water damage to your home in the winter. Clogged storm drains put more pressure on your plumbing system, which makes damage more likely to occur. The end of fall is a prime time for cleaning these areas of your home’s exterior to ensure a smooth flow during the rainy season.
Seal Your Home’s Air Leaks
Keeping it warmer in your home eases the strain on your plumbing system because it doesn’t have to work as hard to provide hot water. The attic, basement and crawl spaces are especially important to seal and insulate.
Schedule a Water Heater Tune-Up
Winter is the worst time to have a problem with your hot water heater. You don’t want to take cold showers when it’s already cold outside. Hot water heaters also work harder in the winter because they’re subject to cold temperatures. Scheduling a tune-up for the end of fall allows you to prepare your water heater for winter. It gives you more peace of mind that your hot water heater can get through the cold season without breaking. Annual water heater maintenance extends the fixture’s lifespan and improves its energy efficiency as well.
Leave the Heat On
Don’t turn off the heat when you leave the house. The risk of frozen pipes isn’t worth saving on your energy bill. Your winter heating bills shouldn’t be too expensive. If you’re having a problem with high energy bills, then your heating system probably needs a repair or maintenance. All heating systems need annual tune-ups, including HVAC systems and heat pumps. These two types of systems also need air conditioning maintenance on an annual basis because they serve both functions of heating and cooling.
The lowest you can set your thermostat in the winter to prevent frozen pipes is 55 degrees. To be on the safe side, you’ll want to set the temperature a bit higher than that. Your pipes should have good insulation if you don’t have the heat high on the property.
If you’re leaving the house for an extended period of time, you should turn off the main water valve and drain the water out of all of the lines. This adds another layer of protection to your property.
Disconnect Your Water Hoses
If you don’t need to use your water hose during the winter, then disconnect it. This helps prevent it from freezing, which can cause damage to the house, faucets or other areas of your plumbing.
Check External Faucets
It’s easy to forget about outside faucets because you don’t use them as much as indoor faucets. Before winter arrives, you should check the outside faucets for leaks. You’ll want to repair any leaks before the cold weather rolls in. Damaged pipes are more likely to break in the winter. If your exterior faucets have water shut-off valves, you should turn off the water to them for winter. Remember to drain the water from the lines too. For another layer of protection, cover your outdoor faucets with insulation kits that are designed for this purpose.
Inspect and Clean Your Sump Pump and Pit
Sump pumps, a plumbing fixture that’s also easy to forget you have, are also susceptible to freezing during the winter. Schedule an inspection and cleaning of your sump pump to prepare for winter. Debris in the pit can cause clogs and flooding. Have an extra discharge hose to attach to the sump pump if its discharge hose freezes or breaks.
Crystal Blue Plumbing provides plumbing and HVAC services in California. We can thoroughly inspect your home’s plumbing system to ensure it’s ready for winter. Specials are available throughout the year to help you save money on maintaining your home. Crystal Blue Plumbing opened its doors in 1976 and has expanded the business to serve more areas over the decades. We have won awards, including the Best of the Best nine times and the Rocklin Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award.
Contact Crystal Blue Plumbing to schedule a plumbing inspection and maintenance.