How to avoid frozen pipes in the winter

Sure, packing up all your stuff and moving to Florida during the winter months is a great way to skip the cold, but it won’t help you prevent frozen pipes, which can be a complete nightmare. Here are a few tips to help you avoid the ultimate winter headache.  

The problem

While water expands when it freezes it isn’t actually the ice that cracks your plumbing; it’s the water that backs up that bursts a faucet or pipe. As the ice creates a solid blockage upstream, the water downstream continues to build up pressure, and as the ice continues to grow something has gotta give. Unfortunately what gives is usually in your house and it will keep flowing until you turn off the mail valve. 

Cover up

If you have pipes that are exposed, outside, or touching an exterior wall, make sure you insulate them. This is not only super easy to do, it’s also inexpensive. Foam insulation comes in tubes like pool noodles, with a slit up one side. Simply wrap it around your exposed pipes and you’re done.

Shut down

If you’ve got an outside hose tap, then you need to turn it off. A good plumber will have installed a shut-off valve inside your house. Shut that one off then open the tap on the outside. This will prevent ice from forming inside the tap between the outside and the house, and while it’s unlikely this will lead to burst pipes (as long as the shut off valve is off), it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Drain everything

If there’s a prolonged power outage, like say, a giant ice storm leaving thousands without power, then you should shut off the main water line into your house. After that, open all the faucets in the house to get water out of the lines so there is no water to freezer. You’ll also want to drain and turn off your hot water heater at this point. There should be a main switch at your water heater, and there is usually a drain valve at the bottom of the heater. No water in the system means no freezing.

Take care of the cottage

If you own a cottage and haven’t been shutting off your water in the winter, then you’ve probably been very lucky that your pipes haven’t already burst. Just as if there were a power outage, you want to drain everything from the whole system. Shut off the main valve, open all your taps, then drain and shut off your water heater.