Georgia isn’t exactly known for its harsh winters. Ask anyone from outside the state, and the only things they’ll likely expect from our climate are the muggy summers and scorching hot weather. In fact, this year may be the state’s second-warmest on record given the record-breaking August temperatures!
However, the usual warmth in this area doesn’t mean our winters are anything to laugh at. Cold snaps and sudden freezes may not happen often, but they still present a very real threat to area homes. Worse, some homeowners don’t even know how to winterize their home plumbing!
If this sounds familiar, don’t worry: you’re far from alone. Our customers aren’t always sure what to do in the event of a cold snap, and the aftermath can sometimes be disastrous. To prevent burst pipes and other damage this winter, here’s what to know about protecting your plumbing.
Insulate Your Indoor Pipes
One of the best ways to winterize your plumbing is to protect it with insulation. The right materials can keep your plumbing warm all season long, reducing the risk of burst pipes and other plumbing emergencies. This is especially important in unheated areas of your home, such as crawl spaces, the attic, or an unfinished basement or garage.
There are several types of insulation to choose from, and most of them come in kits with everything you need for a DIY job.
Pipe sleeves are easy to install and work best for long, straight pipes. They come with pre-cut slits that you can push the pipe through, allowing you to seal the slit with the provided adhesive or tape.
Another common option is insulating spray, which is exactly what it sounds like. Insulating wraps and tapes, which you’ll apply by wrapping around your pipes, are also common.
To go above and beyond, you can also install electric heat cables, which warm your pipes in cold weather.
Insulation comes in several different materials.
Foam is often the most affordable, and it’s also flexible and mold-resistant. Though it works well with all types of pipes, it’s best for low-temperature plumbing.
Spray foam is a substance you’ll spray onto pipes for protection. It’s easy to apply, making it great in hard-to-reach areas, but it’s not ideal for plastic pipes.
Rubber is versatile enough to use on any pipe. More flexible than foam, it’s ideal for pipes that bend or are located in areas that are hard to reach.
Mineral wool (or rock wool) can be a bit more expensive, but it’s great at minimizing heat loss and withstanding high heat.
Fiberglass is great on hot water and copper pipes, as this substance preserves high temperatures better than others. It can be expensive, however, so you may only want to use it in certain areas. You’ll also have to be careful during the installation: fiberglass irritates the skin.
You’ll want to choose an insulation with a high R-value, which is a measure of the material’s insulating power. Here in Georgia, we don’t always need the highest R-value, but it doesn’t hurt to have more insulation. If you’re unsure how high to go, check out ENERGY STAR’s R-values list, which offers advice based on the areas in the home you’re insulating.
Prep Your Outdoor Pipes
Don’t forget your exterior plumbing!
Head outside and drain any water from your garden hose, disconnecting it from the faucet. Failing to do this, especially during a freeze, can result in an ice buildup that damages the hose or your pipes. If you have a sprinkler system, be sure to drain and disconnect it as well.
You should also drain your outdoor water lines by turning off their water supply and opening the taps until no more water flows through.
Last, protect outdoor faucets with a high-quality insulating cover.
Seal Air Leaks
Insulating your entire home can help further protect your plumbing. It also makes your property much more energy-efficient.
If you’ve noticed any drafts throughout your home, seal them up before a freeze. Caulk any gaps around your windows or doors. You can also apply weatherstripping and door draft stoppers to prevent airflow.
Don’t forget to check outlet covers and switch plates for drafts as well. You should also inspect unheated areas and close any vents in your basement or crawl spaces to prevent cold air from reaching your plumbing.
Be Careful During a Freeze
During a cold snap, let the faucets in your home drip a little. Having a small amount of cold water trickling through the pipes can prevent them from freezing. If water does have the chance to freeze in your pipes, the growing expansion and pressure can cause an eventual (and expensive) pipe burst.
You’ll also want to keep your indoor temperatures high, even if you’ll be away from home. If your home’s temperature dips below 55 degrees during extreme weather, you’ll increase the risk of frozen pipes.
One trick to keep your pipes warm is to let air circulate below your sinks. Opening the cabinet doors under the sink gives warm air the chance to reach your pipes.
If you plan to be away from home for an extended period, you should also add anti-freeze to your pipes.
Flush and empty your toilets before pouring antifreeze into the bowls. Perform basic drain care around your home, then close the water supply line and drain your taps before pouring antifreeze down the drains as well. This keeps any standing water within your plumbing from freezing.
Know How to Winterize Your Plumbing
The plumbing winterization tips above are great ways to protect your pipes, whether you’ll be home all season long or you’re headed away for the holidays. Make sure to set aside time for basic maintenance before the weather gets cold!
Knowing how to winterize home plumbing is great, but it won’t always prevent every disaster.
If you’re dealing with the aftermath of a burst pipe, a major leak, or other damage, trust the experts at Progressive Heating, Air, and Plumbing. We proudly serve Coweta County, Metro Atlanta, and the surrounding areas. Contact us today at (770) 692-4138 or contact us online for help.