Monday, January 03, 2011
Old Man Winter and Your Plumbing
Don't Get Left in the Cold with a Plumbing Emergency!
It's a new year. Winter has officially arrived. Already, most of the nation has experienced has experienced an episode or two of nasty winter weather...including cold temperatures. Unfortunately, winter is also the time when your home is most prone to plumbing problems -- both routine and outright disasters.
Most of the more serious winter plumbing problems -- like cracked, burst and frozen pipes -- should be left to the plumbing experts. But as homeowners, there are plenty of things we can do ourselves to prevent these plumbing mishaps and to ensure that our home plumbing systems work as efficiently as possible all winter long. A regular round of checks and some preventive steps can be easily carried out to help maintain the long-term optimal working of your plumbing system and save on costly plumbing repair bills.
It's Always Wise to Winterize!
If you didn't do it before winter arrived, make sure now that any outside hoses are disconnected from faucets and and outside pipes turned off and drained, as water in them will freeze and expand. This will cause pipes and fittings to crack and burst. This can lead to serious leaks and even flooding. This can happen to plastic as well as metal pipes.
This shut-down of external pipes can be made easier if your home has shut-off valves installed, which will close them down and drain the water off. Once effectively disconnected, the exterior faucets can then be protected from the cold weather with lagging.
If you have pipes situated in areas of the home that are not heated, such as garages, these can be insulated from temperature extremes using heat tape or insulating sleeves available at most hardware stores.
To increase energy efficiency, seal doors and windows from drafts using materials you can buy in any home centers. This will keep warm air inside your home, adding a few degrees of warmth to your pipes and fixtures.
Check your water heater, which has an extra burden placed on it during cold months, flushing it out to get rid of any build-up of sediments, as these cause corrosion and greatly effect efficiency and longevity of the unit. Drain off a few gallons using the faucet situated near the base of the unit. Also check the pressure release valve, which should snap smartly back into place when lifted after allowing a spurt of water to the drain. If it is slack, get somebody in to replace it.
The water heater’s thermostatic control should be set according to the season. In winter you’ll want optimum performance, of course, at about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. You may also have to clean debris such as dead leaves from around the downspouts to allow for better drainage after the coming thaw.
It's important to prevent ice build-up in your pipes during the winter. Try not to let any sink, tub or toilet go idle for too long. Be sure to use as many fixtures as regularly as you can so water doesn't accumulate in one place and freeze. One good idea to make sure that water keeps flowing throughout your pipes is to leave faucets on at a very slow trickle...especially at night when temperatures can take a sudden plunge.
Going on a winter vacation or plan to be out of the house for an extended length of time? It’s a good idea to close the main water valve and then open the faucets at the top and base of the house to drain the system, keeping the heat on as you do so.
You need only a very basic set of tools to maintain your home plumbing system this winter. A pipe wrench is probably the most important, enabling you to get a good grip on pipes and fittings. A pair of pliers will help you to adjust nuts and bolts, but these can damage fittings if you slip up, so get some smooth sleeves to fit. These tools are fine for the small maintenance jobs you’re likely to be carrying out, but for bigger home plumbing jobs it’s best to get the professionals in, otherwise things could take a turn for the worse.
Related Plumbing Information from Horizon Services...