Keeping Your Outdoor Plumbing Safe Through Winter

Keeping Your Outdoor Plumbing Safe Through Winter

Photo By Laurence Berger at istock

As cold weather sets in, winterizing your outdoor plumbing can help keep it safe throughout the season. A plumbing service inspection can help you assess any potential problems with outdoor pipes before freezing weather hits, and you can weatherize your outdoor plumbing to help head off any potential for cracked or bursting pipes.

How Freezing Temperatures Damage Outdoor Plumbing

When temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, ice crystals can start to form inside your outdoor pipes and fixtures. Because water expands when frozen, this puts pressure on pipes and connections both indoors and outdoors. Cracks and ruptures might form in the pipes, or connections between pipes might fail. Once temperatures reach about 28 degrees Fahrenheit or below, the ice that has formed may start pushing its way into indoor plumbing inside your walls, creating even more of a danger for your plumbing system.

You may not even notice the damage until it is too late, and cracks or breaks might not become evident until the ice melts and you’re left with a slow leak that adds gallons to your monthly water usage or a dramatic spray of water that brings unwanted moisture inside your home.

When to Weatherize Your Outdoor Plumbing

The best time to weatherize your outdoor plumbing is before the first freeze in your area, but you should also check over your plumbing regularly throughout the winter months. If you aren’t sure when the first freeze typically occurs, make it part of your regular fall schedule to check your outdoor pipes each month as the weather gets cooler. Schedule a visit from a plumbing service professional before winter begins so you can address any problems early in the season.

Winterizing Your Outdoor Faucets

Before you can winterize your outdoor plumbing, you should do a thorough inspection of all of your pipes and fixtures. Make sure you know where all of your outdoor faucets are and identify any pipes around or under your house that are exposed directly to air. Take any attached hoses off the outdoor faucets and drain out water inside those hoses before putting them in storage. Detach any sprinklers, garden fountains or other outdoor systems that use water and drain those as well.

An empty pipe is less likely to freeze and break, so you should drain all exterior pipes leading to outdoor faucets. Clear these outdoor water lines by shutting off each individual water line using the line’s shutoff valve. You can usually find these near your home’s main water shutoff valve. Once the water supply is shut off, turn the handle of the faucet to fully open it and let the water in the pipe drain out. You can also unscrew the bleeder cap near your shutoff valve to remove any water that didn’t come out of the faucet.

Protecting Outdoor Pipes from Freezing Temperatures

Outdoor pipes that lead to interior faucets and fixtures can’t be completely drained, so you need to protect them in other ways. Moving water freezes more slowly than still water, so leaving faucets running at a low volume during a freeze reduces the chances of the pipes outside of your home or those inside your walls freezing solid.

Insulating Pipes to Protect Them from Winter Damage

Insulating your pipes is an important part of weatherizing your outdoor plumbing for winter. Any pipes that are exposed to air should be insulated before a freeze. Foam insulation and towels wrapped around exposed pipes helps insulate them and reduce the risk of freezing. You can also go a step further and have your pipes covered with slide-on insulation. Ask your plumbing service professional which option works best for your particular home and your local weather conditions.

Your plumbing service professional might also recommend heat tape for outdoor pipes that go underground or pipes leading to outdoor structures, such as a shed or garage. Heat tape is wired into your electrical system and works by physically warming the pipes to prevent freezing. A thermostat lets you control the temperature and monitor the operation of the heat tape.

Preparing Ahead for Potential Winter Pipe Issues

If your area experiences frequent below-freezing temperatures, make sure you have a plan in case your outdoor pipes do become damaged by ice or frost. Store bluefrog’s number on your phone so you can call for plumbing service when you need it.

Water sensors installed in or around your home can help you locate indoor and outdoor plumbing problems before they become major issues. Identifying leaks or drips early lets you avoid water damage to other parts of your home.

Retrofit Your Plumbing for Better Winter Performance

In some cases, a simple retrofit of your existing plumbing can make your pipes and faucets more resistant to outdoor weather. A professional plumbing service can install frost-free faucets and self-draining spigots to get your home ready for winter without requiring much effort on your part.

A pre-winter plumbing service inspection might also reveal areas where your outdoor plumbing is particularly vulnerable to freezing temperatures. Having your plumbing rerouted may be worth the time and expense if it saves you from dealing with broken or burst pipes later.

Clear Outdoor Drains for Extra Protection from Winter Plumbing Emergencies

If your outdoor drains are clogged or backed up, water can freeze in the drainage system that removes water and sewage from your home. Have a plumbing service professional inspect your drains before winter hits to ensure that nothing is going to cause a backup that could lead to burst sewage or drain pipes.

Contact bluefrog for Emergency Plumbing Service and Preventative Care 

The professional plumbers at bluefrog Plumbing + Drain provide everything from preventative maintenance to emergency plumbing service when you have a burst pipe or hidden leak. Give bluefrog a call or contact us online to schedule an appointment today.

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