Winter is a fantastic time of year. Even though the cold period for us in Northeast Texas is shorter than it is for some other people in the country, it’s still fun to celebrate the holiday season with family, friends, and lots of food. And here in Texas, we do all of those BIG.
Winter can also be a stressful time of year. With the days ending sooner and the cold getting sharper, there are a lot of projects around the house that you’ll need to do to get your house ready for a three-month hibernation. Some of these jobs are bigger than others, but if done properly, you can add decades to your house’s lifespan and save yourself big money on repair bills down the road.
Your plumbing is no different. Although modern piping systems are much more adept at handling the cold than older homes, there are still a number of things you need to do to prepare for those cold winter months. Below is a list of some of the most important things, as well as some basic instructions on how to get it done. Follow the steps below, and you’ll be able to welcome Spring with open arms.
- Protect Outdoor Faucets. If you’re like most homeowners, you probably have hoses and other devices attached to your faucets outside year-round. If so, then start by removing all of those hoses and draining them before rolling them up and stowing them inside your garage or storage shed. Then, head down to your local department store and pick up covers to put on those faucets to keep them from freezing. Any cover will do, but even the most expensive of these covers should only run you $5-10 at most.
- Fix All Leaks. Winter is not the time to have a leaky faucet or drain behind your shower wall. While the water damage is bad enough, the contracting and expanding of the water from the cool-to-warm temperatures can put extra strain on your pipes and make leaks bigger than they were initially. Do a once-over on your house and inspect any pipes for leaks or other damage, and have them fixed immediately.
- Wrap Exposed Pipes. If you live in a mobile home, this point applies double for you. Any pipes that are in any part of the home that is not heated should be wrapped in either heat tape or pipe insulation. Just about every hardware store carries a variety of these wraps, some of which even include a thermostat so you can monitor the temperature. While you may not notice much damage to your pipes in the first year, pipes that are left unwrapped for a few years will start to show serious wear and tear, and may even burst in the middle of winter due to the pressure. If you need help installing these, or just want to ask our team for advice, feel free to contact us.
- Check Your Furnace. A faulty furnace in the middle of winter is the last thing any homeowner wants, especially those that don’t have a fireplace or some other heat source that can keep you warm. For that reason, have a technician come by and check your furnace to make sure it’s operating properly. You also need your house to be heated properly to protect your pipes. If the furnace quits, not only will you be cold, but your pipes will be freezing too, and are vulnerable to bursting. Checking your furnace ensures your house stays warm and everything operates efficiently.
- Open Cabinet Doors. If there’s a part of your house that you don’t use very much, such as a guest bathroom, leave the cabinet doors open that protect the pipes and turn the handle on a smidge to leave a light drip. You may think this doesn’t do much, but the circulating warm air will help keep those pipes warm and the trickling water will make sure that water is continuously running through the pipes. You can consider doing this for every part of your house, but it’s generally unnecessary for high-traffic areas.
- Plan for Absences. If you’re one of those people that “flies south” for the winter, or you are just planning on a long vacation, consider winterizing your house to get it ready for the long period of non-use. Don’t turn the thermostat off; instead, set it to at least 55 degrees in your house to keep the pipes from freezing. Also, it’s not a bad idea to turn off the main water supply to the house and open up all the faucets to let the water drain from the pipes. If there are any questions about how or why to take these steps, feel free to contact us.
- Insulate the Garage Door. The pipes in your garage need love too! If you have water lines running through the garage, consider setting up some insulation on the inside of the door, and possibly running some heat cable alongside it. If you decide to use a portable space heater to heat the garage, remember to turn it off every once in a while to keep from overheating.
- Caulk the Cracks. Here in the south, our homes are designed to handle heat much better than we can the cold. Because of that, you may not notice all the extra cracks or holes where cold air can leak in and affect your water pipes. Using expanding foam or caulk, spray the areas where air is seeping in. If you can, wrap insulation around the pipes on the inside too to keep them from freezing. Not only will your house feel better, but you’ll be better protected against potential issues as well.
- Locate Your Water Main. If you have no idea where the main cut off to your water line is, now is an excellent time to locate it. The last thing you want to be doing in the cold is digging around in your front yard, looking for a cutoff while your home slowly fills up with water from a pipe burst. Know exactly where it is and how to get to it, as well as all the other cutoffs that you might need: sinks, sprinkler system, etc. If a situation happens and we arrive to help, we’ll need to know where it is, and the faster you can locate it, the faster the problem can be fixed.
- Check Your Sump Pump. Not many homes in the south have basements. Due to space, it’s more cost-effective for builders to build out rather than up or down. If you do have a basement however, you most likely have a sump pump, since they’re used to collect the rainwater and direct it away from your house. Over time, it can get clogged, and since it’s in the basement in a generally unheated part of the house, it can also freeze. Remove the lid and check for clogs and pour water into it to make sure it drains properly. If it bursts and water starts seeping into your basement, you could have major issues.
- Drain Your Water Heater. This should be done anyway to protect your unit against sediment and rust, but the fall is an excellent time to do this since it ensures you won’t be taking cold showers all winter. Moreover, a busted water heater can also cause other issues, so drain it and clean it out.
- Call a Pro. A frozen pipe is a big deal. Not only can it cause other problems if it bursts, but the burst itself can be dangerous if you or a loved one happen to be nearby. If you find a frozen pipe, call our team immediately and turn off the water to the house. Allow the faucets to drain as they can and don’t attempt to fix it on your own. Once we get there, we’ll be able to handle the problem quickly and efficiently.
The cold months can be daunting for any new homeowner, but as the old saying goes, “an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.” Take the time now to get your house ready for the cold winter months, and you’ll be able to rest easy near the fire with peace of mind, knowing that your house is as protected as possible. If we can help with your preparations in any way, contact us today!