Tips to Winterizing Your Home’s Plumbing

Freezing temperatures have already crept into the Fall season in Kansas this year. If you haven’t done so already, this would be a good time to winterize your household plumbing pipes. Winterizing helps prevent leaks and pipe breaks in the home when temperatures get below freezing, hopefully avoiding an emergency call to the plumber and water damage to your home.

When water freezes, it can cause pressure in your pipes, which leads to a crack or rupture. This will usually happen in the pipe somewhere between where the water is frozen and a closed faucet (i.e. kitchen faucet or washing machine), where the pressure has become too much for the pipe to handle. You can help prevent this from happening in your home by taking steps to winterize your pipes.

Where to Start

Do a walk-through of your home. Take note of where you have pipes located on outside walls and windows, near unheated spaces, and pipes that are uninsulated. Areas with a draft – cracks or holes that let cold air in – should be caulked, covered with insulation, or closed off, depending on where the air is coming in. The crawl space is a specific area that may need to be sealed.

Older copper or steel water pipes are less tolerant of freezing temperatures. For your pipes along outside walls, use insulation sleeves, wrapping, or slip-on foam pipe insulation. You also don’t want to leave any gaps when insulating your pipes. A local hardware store should have the insulation materials you need.

Find your main waterline shut-off and turn the water off. Then, turn on faucets in your home to allow the water to drain. This should release any pressure in your pipes.

For sink piping that is on an exterior wall, you can leave cabinet doors open to expose them to the warmer air in the room. For those times we expect a deep freeze, consider using a small space heater for temporary extra heat in the room of the susceptible pipes. A fan can also help circulate the warm air. 

If you are planning any winter vacations, do not turn off the heat at home. Set the temperature to at least 55 degrees F. You can also consider leaving a slow drip from faucets you are concerned might freeze while you’re gone. This is another way to help relieve pressure in the pipes.

Some older hot water tanks are also vulnerable to the cold weather. The incoming water supply can be very cold when temperatures get to freezing and below. So, when someone takes a bath or shower and uses a lot of the water in the tank, it then refills with that very cold water quickly. Over time, if the inside of the tank has started to weaken and erode, that shock in the temperature change of the water can cause the tank to crack. If you have water heater troubles, your McElroy’s licensed, local plumber offers 24-hour water heater service/repair to Topeka and surrounding areas, getting you back to those hot showers in no time.

If it’s time for a new water heater at your house, tankless is a smart option that will deliver savings on your energy bill. McElroy’s trusted plumbing professionals can install a new tankless water heater for you, and also repair and maintain existing units.

Let’s not forget to prepare pipes outside the home for freezing weather. Be sure to disconnect garden hoses from the outside faucets. Shut off water to external faucets (if your home has that option) and drain the water from those spigots so they don’t freeze and rupture in the middle of a winter night.

If you have a sprinkler system, you’ll also want to turn off and drain it. This may require the help of a professional company.

In the event your pipes do become damaged, you can count on McElroy’s to safely remove and replace any sewer, water, or gas piping at your home. 

McElroy’s team of certified craftsmen are available 24/7 to help with any plumbing needs. From water heating repair to pipe replacement, McElroy’s has been the most trusted name for plumbing in Topeka and Lawrence since 1951.

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