Winterizing Your Plumbing System
Homeowners who used to simply turn down the thermostat in a vacated house for the winter are now closing down the plumbing system because of prohibitively high energy costs. Winterizing your plumbing is a virtually cost-free alternative to frozen pipes.
- Turn off the main shutoff valve or have the water company turn off service to the house.
- Starting at the top floor, open all faucets, both indoors and outside.
- When the last of the water has dripped from the taps, open the plug at the main shutoff valve if present.
- Turn off the power or gas to the water heater and open its drain valve.
- To freezeproof the system, empty toilet bowls and tanks.
- Remove the clean out plugs on all sink traps or remove the traps, if necessary.
- Once emptied, replace them and fill with bio-degradable plumbing antifreeze mixed with water in the proportions specified for car in your climate.
- You won't be able to drain tub and shower taps. Instead, add at least a full quart of the bio-degradable antifreeze.
- Don't put antifreeze into a dishwasher or clothes washer.
- If your home has a basement floor drain or a main house trap, fill each with full-strength bio-degradable antifreeze.
- It may also be advisable to have a Licensed Plumber come to your home to blow out you water line like you would a lawn sprinkler system. Sometimes water can get trapped in your water lines.
- Keep in mind, with long periods of non-use, some plumbing parts in toilet tanks and faucets my need to be replaced.
A faucet that won't yield water is the first sign of frozen pipes. If a severe cold snap hits, prevent freezing and subsequent bursting of pipes by following the suggestions below. Even if the pipes do freeze, you can thaw them before they burst if you act quickly. When temperatures fall very low, here's how to keep your pipes from freezing:
- Keep a trickle of water running from the faucets.
- Beam a heat lamp or small heater at exposed pipes.
- Wrap uninsulated pipes with pipe insulation with an “R” Value, heating wires, foam, or self-adhesive insulating tape.
- Keep doors ajar between heated and unheated rooms.
- Keep all doors, including garage doors, closed.
- Raise Thermostat up to a minimum of 70 degrees when temperature drops below 30 degrees.
Thawing Frozen Pipes
If a pipe freezes:
- Shut off the water at the main shutoff valve and open the faucet nearest to the frozen pipe so it can drain as it thaws.
- Waterproof the area with containers and plastic drop clothes in case leaks occur.
- Use one of the following methods to gradually warm the frozen pipe. Be sure to work from the faucet toward the iced-up area.
- Hair Dryer, used like the torch, a dryer will gently defrost the pipe.
- Heat Lamp, for pipes behind walls, floors, or ceilings, beam a heat lamp 8 or more inches from the surface. Be sure not to have heat lamp too close to a flammable surface.