The winters in Illinois can be freezing, and these freezing temperatures can easily damage your home's plumbing system. Frozen pipes are a frequent problem in the winter. If your water lines freeze, you obviously won't be able to use your plumbing fixtures until they thaw out. Water expands as it freezes, and therefore frozen pipes often rupture. If this happens, you'll be facing potentially expensive repairs. A burst pipe can also flood your home, which can cause severe water damage. For these reasons and more, you must winterize your plumbing before the freezing temperatures set in, and here is how to do just that.
Shut Off and Drain Outdoor Faucets and Water Lines
Your hose bibs, sprinkler system, and other outdoor plumbing are much more susceptible to freezing and breaking. To prevent this, you will need to shut off the water to any outdoor fixtures and make sure to drain the lines fully.
You can start by disconnecting and draining any outdoor hoses. If you leave the hose connected, water can freeze inside it. This can lead to pressure building up in the water line that feeds the hose bib, which can cause the water line to leak or break.
Once you've disconnected the hoses, you'll want to shut off the water supply to the hose bibs. Each hose bib should have a shut-off valve inside the home near the water line that feeds and exits the building.
After shutting off the water to the bib, go back outside and open it up to drain any remaining water out of the line. If you don't do this, any water left inside the pipe outside the building will freeze.
The last step is to cover all the hose bibs with an outdoor faucet sock. This insulates the bib to ensure that if any water is still inside, it cannot freeze.
If you have a sprinkler system, you will need to shut off the water and drain the lines. Draining the pipes requires using a powerful compressor to blow any remaining water out of the system, and this is typically something you will need to hire a professional to do to prevent damage to the system.
Make Sure Your Pipes Are Well-Insulated
Any pipes that run through uninsulated areas like an attic or crawl space or inside exterior walls need additional protection to ensure they don't freeze. To prevent freezing, ensure all these pipes are wrapped in foam insulation. This slides directly over the side of the pipe and only takes a few seconds to install. Ensure that the insulation covers the entire pipe and that there are no gaps.
Check for Air Leaks Inside and Outside
If your home has a crawl space, it is essential that it is well insulated. However, even if your pipes are well insulated, they may still freeze if the crawlspace isn't as well. In addition, most crawlspaces have air vents that lead outside. If so, you must also block these up to prevent cold air from getting inside.
It would be best if you then inspected the entire exterior of the building around the foundation. If you see any cracks, make sure to seal them well using spray foam insulation or caulk. Even small cracks can let lots of frigid air inside, increasing the risk of your pipes freezing.
Once this is done, go back inside and check for air leaks around your windows and doors. Check that the caulking and weatherstripping are in good shape and replace or reseal as needed. You should also feel for leaks around any electrical outlets or switches located on exterior walls. Sometimes there isn't enough insulation around these to prevent air from leaking inside and potentially causing any pipes in that wall to freeze.
Tips for Extreme Cold
The previous steps should be sufficient for most of the winter. However, when freezing temperatures are predicted, you should also take additional steps to ensure your plumbing doesn't freeze. One of the best and easiest things you can do is to leave your faucets slightly open whenever the weather is frigid. This ensures that there is always a trickle of water running through the pipes. This is important since the water won't be as easy to freeze when it is running. Also, heed the region's water pressure warnings during this time.
You should also make sure to open the cabinets below all your sinks. This allows warm air to circulate inside the cabinet to help prevent the pipes from freezing.
You will also need to ensure that the house temperature does not drop below 55 degrees. If it gets colder than this inside, there won't be enough heat inside to prevent the cold water flowing into your pipes from freezing.
Fully Winterizing a Home
If you plan on leaving the house vacant for any prolonged time during the winter, you will need to take additional steps to ensure your plumbing is fully drained and winterized. If no water runs through your plumbing for a long time, it increases the chances of the pipes freezing. You also need to ensure that you have a continuous heat source in the building while you're away so that the temperature doesn't drop below 55 degrees.
Fully winterizing a home is always best done by a professional plumber as it will be necessary to blow out all of the pipes. The first step involved is shutting off the main water supply. The plumber will then open all faucets and plumbing fixtures. This is important as any closed faucets can create a vacuum in the plumbing system, which will trap water inside the pipes. Finally, an air compressor blows out the water lines to ensure they are dry.
All toilets must be flushed repeatedly to remove as much water from the tank as possible. Then, antifreeze is added to the tank to prevent any remaining water from freezing. Any sinks or drains that have a P-trap will also need antifreeze. This trap always contains a small amount of water and is responsible for creating a seal that prevents sewer gases from coming back into the home. Putting antifreeze into the drain ensures that the water in the trap won't freeze and break the pipe.
The last step is shutting off the water heater and thoroughly draining the tank. This prevents the water inside the tank from freezing. It also ensures that the heating elements won't get damaged, which can quickly happen if the unit runs while the tank is empty.
Award-Winning Plumbing Services in Plainfield
If you need help ensuring your home's plumbing is fully winterized, you can count on the TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing team. We are a family-owned company and have been providing plumbing services to residents of Plainfield and throughout the Greater Chicago Metro area since 2008. All our plumbers are fully licensed and highly trained, and we always take the time to make sure the job is done right the first time. No matter what plumbing service you need, we always provide honest, upfront pricing with no hidden fees. To schedule an appointment to winterize your plumbing, give us a call today.