Winterizing a plumbing system is something that should always be done every fall in colder climates where the temperature gets low enough that the pipes could potentially freeze. Keeping your thermostat set to at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit whenever freezing conditions are present can definitely help to prevent your indoor plumbing from freezing.
This alone isn’t always sufficient as the pipes in your attic, basement or crawl space could still freeze in certain conditions. Keeping your heating turned up also obviously won’t prevent your outdoor pipes and plumbing from freezing. So it’s important that you take the time each fall to ensure that the plumbing inside and outside of your home is properly winterized. This article will show you what all it takes to winterize a plumbing system.
Shutting Off the Water Supply to Hose Bibs and Outdoor Plumbing Fixtures
As soon as a frost alert or freezing weather is predicted, you should make sure that you disconnect any hoses. Also shut the water off to all hose bibs and outdoor plumbing fixtures. Winterizing your outdoor plumbing is typically quite simple. It is something you can usually do on your own as long as all of the hose bibs are frostproof.
Standard hose bibs have a very short stem that connects to the water line just inside the exterior wall. Frost-proof bibs have a much longer stem that juts out further into the home where it is warmer before connecting the water line. This greatly lessens the chances of the water in the pipe freezing. If you have any hose bibs that aren’t frostproof or you’re unsure whether they are, you definitely want to hire a plumber to ensure they don’t freeze over the winter.
Every hose bib and outdoor plumbing fixture should have a shut-off valve located inside the home, usually in the basement or crawl space. After unhooking the hoses and closing all of the valves, you then need to open all of the fixtures and hose bibs. Do this until the pipes are fully drained and no more water drips out. Once fully drained, you should then again close everything to block cold air from seeping inside the pipes.
Shutting Off the Sprinkler System and Blowing Out the Lines
If you have an underground sprinkler system, it is also important to shut it off and have the water blown out of all of the lines. If you don’t shut off the water, the sprinkler lines are almost guaranteed to freeze and then potentially burst and start leaking. The lines also need to be blown out as they will remain full of water even if the system is shut off.
Making Sure All Exposed Pipes Are Properly Insulated
It is also important that all of the exposed water lines in your home are wrapped tightly with insulation. The majority of the water lines in a home are already insulated from cold air as they are located inside walls or ceilings. However, it is essential that you check that any water lines running through your attic, basement or crawl space are sufficiently insulated. Even when your heating is running and your living areas are warm, these other areas will often remain cold enough for the pipes to freeze if they aren’t fully insulated. If you notice the pipe insulation is starting to degrade or there are gaps in the insulation, you should have a plumber reinsulate the pipes before winter comes.
Fully Winterizing a Plumbing System
If you’re a snowbird that always heads south for the winter or you plan on taking an extended vacation, it’s always good to have your home’s plumbing system fully winterized. Full winterization isn’t completely necessary when taking a long vacation in the winter. This is as long as you leave your thermostat set to at least 60 degrees so your heating system runs as needed to keep your pipes from freezing.
However, it’s definitely a good idea to get your plumbing winterized if you don’t have anyone who can come check on your home every few days. This will ensure your power is still on and your heating system is still running. If the power were to go out or your heating quit working for any reason, it may not take that long before the temperature in your home drops. This may even be to the point where the water inside all of your pipes, drains and even your toilets and water heater freezes. Any time water freezes in your plumbing system, it will often lead to the pipes rupturing or the fixtures cracking causing massive flooding and extensive damage.
The easiest way to ensure this can’t happen is to have a plumber fully winterize your home. The first step in winterizing a plumbing system is to close the valve on the main water line to shut off the home’s water supply. The plumber will then open up every faucet and shower in the home so that all of the water in the pipes completely drains out. They’ll also disconnect the hoses and drain all of the water from the pipes feeding your washing machine and dishwasher to ensure they can’t freeze.
It’s also important to fully flush all of the toilets and then soak up or vacuum out any remaining water in the tank or bowl or add anti-freeze to the water. This is so that it can’t freeze and crack the porcelain. The plumber will also fully drain your water heater so that it also can’t freeze. Anti-freeze should also be added to every sink, shower and floor drain to ensure the water trapped inside the drain’s P-trap can’t ever freeze.
Once they’ve drained as much water from the pipes as possible, they’ll then blow out any remaining water similar to how you had your sprinkler system blown out. This is done by first closing all of the plumbing fixtures and then connecting an air compressor to either a basement faucet or an outdoor hose bib. The compressor is run until the pressure in the plumbing system reaches around 70 psi.
Blowing out the plumbing system in the home is always a two-person job. Once the pressure is high enough, one person will then go around the home and systematically open each fixture to blow out the pipe supplying it. If the home has more than one level, they will always start on the top floor and then work their way down. This is to prevent blowing water back up and into the other pipes.
Once no more water comes out, they’ll close the fixture and then go from room to room until all of the pipes have been blown out. Meanwhile, the other person will continue operating the air compressor. This is to ensure that there is always enough pressure in the system to blow out the pipes. It will also ensure that the pressure never rises too high to where it could damage the pipes.
Midwest Mechanical is ready to help if you need to winterize your plumbing or if your pipes freeze over the winter. We specialize in leak detection and repairs as well as all other plumbing services. We also provide expert heating, air conditioning and indoor air quality services throughout the Wichita area. For more information on how to prevent your pipes from freezing this winter, give us a call today.