Avoid Burst Pipes with a Winter Plumbing Checklist

Water is essential to maintaining human life, but if it freezes in your home’s pipes, it can make for a costly headache. In fact, water damage and freezing account for about one-fifth of all homeowners insurance claim losses, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Before the winter cold sets in, Rob's Albertan Service Experts offers this plumbing maintenance checklist to help you minimize the likelihood of a burst pipe. These tips could potentially save you thousands in repair costs.

1. Inspect pipes exposed to cold air

A thorough inspection of your home’s plumbing pipes is the first step to minimize the potential for a winter pipe burst. Look for pipes that may be exposed to cold air. Crawl spaces and basements are areas that homeowners tend to overlook. If they have exposed water pipes in them, you want to make sure they are properly insulated, said Greg Worley, Division Vice President at Service Experts.

Additionally, during extreme cold weather, be sure to consider sink cabinets on exterior or outside walls. Inadequate insulation in those areas can also cause pipes to freeze inside the cabinet.

“If you feel like you’re unsure of where exposed pipes might be in your plumbing system, reach out to a certified professional for an inspection. They can help you understand where problem areas may exist, and that’s information you can take with you going forward,” Worley said.

2. Address leaks before the first cold snap

A typical home may lose up to 20,000 gallons a year due to leaks, according to the Alliance for Water Efficiency. You’ll lose a lot more if a leaky pipe bursts. Leaks are most common around pipe connections or where rubber seals may erode over time. You can start by checking your faucets, showerheads and water supply lines underneath sinks and behind your washing machine. You also want to pay attention to areas where there is low water pressure. That might be a sign of a leak you can’t see.

“Today’s leaks are tomorrow’s breaks. All it takes is one hard freeze,” Worley said. “Low water pressure is a red flag and you’ll want to call a plumbing professional to find that leak.”

3. Inspect outdoor spigots and hoses, find your shut-off valve

Taking care of your home’s exterior water lines also plays a part in preventing interior pipe bursts. If temperatures dip below freezing, frozen water inside a hose can expand and damage the hose. However, it can also damage pipes inside the home or cause the outside spigot to burst. You should also cover the outside spigot with an insulation cap that can be found at a local hardware or home supply store.

Make sure hoses are adequately drained and insulate all visible pipes leading from the home to the spigot. Drain sprinkler systems, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for winterizing and shut off lines and valves feeding outside systems. To prepare for if you have an emergency, make sure you know how to shut off the water in your home. Make it a point to locate your main shut-off valves on the outside and inside of your home first, and then have them inspected to make sure they’re functioning properly.

4. Service your water heater

Before winter, flush your water heater and have a certified professional perform a water heater maintenance inspection to make sure it is ready for the busy season. You’ll want to make sure the temperature is set no lower than 120 F. “Water heater tanks can collect sediment throughout the year, which can deteriorate the base of the tank and eventually cause the water heater to fail. There are other components that require regular checks as well,” said Worley.

5. Clean your sump pump

If your home has a sump pump, this is a good time to perform its annual cleaning. If a pump stops working during a freeze, it can lose its ability to remove water that wants to intrude into your basement. Likewise, you may welcome a thaw after the freeze, but if the system can’t handle the incoming water, you may end up with a flooded basement and costly repairs.

6. Set your thermostat

Of course, a home’s interior pipes can better handle a cold snap if the home’s temperature stays consistently warm. It’s common for homeowners to react to severe weather shifts by increasing the thermostat. However, it’s better to set specific temperature ranges well ahead of time and try to maintain them throughout the season, Worley said.

The Energy.gov website recommends an ideal indoor temperature around 68 F during the day when climate control is likely needed in your home. You can adjust down or up, but whatever temperature range you do decide on, try to keep it in that range as much as possible throughout the season.

7. Seal drafty areas and have your furnace inspected

In order to maintain a consistent temperature in your home, make sure drafty areas are sealed. You’ll want to pay particularly close attention to seals around windows and doors. An HVAC system maintenance inspection is also recommended, as a sudden outage and subsequent drop in the home’s temperature can contribute to a potential pipe break.

“These suggestions aren’t a guarantee, but they put you on good footing for the season,” Worley said. “You’ll want to monitor the weather, make sure your home’s water pressure is consistent, and all systems are working throughout the season. If you notice a change, address it promptly, don’t ignore it.”

Learn more by visiting the Service Experts website.

Source: GET Creative, a division of USA TODAY

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