Hot tips for preventing frozen pipes
Plumber Ted Sosnowski installs copper pipes in a home in Doylestown, Penn. (John Slavin/ McClatchy-Tribune photo / June 22, 2006)
This hassle and extra expense is easily prevented with a couple of hours worth of weekend chores or a quick call to a plumber.
People in northernmost states should take preventive action by late October to protect plumbing systems. Southerners should follow by late November. Failure to prepare early might prove costly when pipes freeze, which is why plumbing experts recommend taking these winterization precautions early, when time is on your side, instead of waiting until cold weather arrives.
Here are some plumbing tips that can save you a bundle:
Disconnect outside water hoses. If left connected during freezing temperatures, water in hoses will freeze and expand, causing connecting faucets and pipes to freeze and break.
Inspect outside faucets. If dripping or leaking, make the necessary repairs or call a plumber before a freeze.
If your home is equipped with interior shut-off valves leading to outside faucets, close them and drain water from the pipes.
Cover outside faucets using an inexpensive faucet insulation kit.
Insulate pipes in unheated areas. Apply heat tape or thermostat-controlled heat cables around exposed pipes.
Make sure your furnace is set no lower than 55 degrees during the winter to prevent pipes from freezing. Note that when pipes freeze, water pressure builds, causing cracks, whether the pipe is made of plastic, copper or steel. A tiny crack can unleash 250 gallons of water in a day.
Your water heater works harder during winter months. Drain corrosion-causing sediment from the tank, which reduces energy efficiency.
Set the water heater thermostat to 120 degrees for optimum performance without risk of scalding.
Clear any leaves and debris from roof gutters and downspouts to ensure proper drainage throughout the winter season.
Inspect and clean the sump pit. Remove any rocks and debris from the pit, then dump a bucket of water into the sump pit to test the pump. If it turns on and pumps water out, then turns itself off, it is operating properly.