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Tips to Protect Plumbing for the Winter

Take these steps so your plumbing will run smoothly this winter.

Winters can be some of the most beautiful times of the year. There's nothing like a fresh coat of powdery snow to help you and your family get in the holiday spirit as it gets closer to Christmas. This year, you've done all that you can to prepare your home for the large number of guests that spend the holidays under your roof. Between all of your family and friends, you're going to have a pretty packed house, but you're ready this time around.

You've stocked the fridge and made up the guest room bed, but have you taken the time to prep your home's plumbing for these trying winter months? The last thing you want is for a problem to occur in your plumbing and to need an emergency plumber with a full house of family and friends!

The additional people using your home’s plumbing plus the freezing temperatures can lead to problems. Take these steps to protect your plumbing this winter and around the holiday season this year:

Bring outdoor fixtures inside for the winter

The freezing temperatures can be problematic for all of your outdoor fixtures that use water. This includes things like garden hoses, bird baths and fountains. Instead of running the risk that they get damaged in the cold weather, bring them inside for storage during the winter. To begin the process to winterize your plumbing, drain all of the water out of appliances like these, and then run fresh water through them one more time to flush out any built up dirt and grime. Take an extra moment to wipe down the exterior of these items, and then store them in a dry place for the duration of the winter.

Insulate your pipes

One of the most common problems with plumbing over the winter comes in the form of frozen pipes. If your unprotected pipes freeze, you could lose the ability to take a shower, and if a frozen pipe bursts, the cleanup and repair can be expensive. Take the initiative this year to winterize your plumbing by giving your pipes an extra layer of protection against the dropping temperatures. Simply cut pieces of foam pipe sleeves to the right length, run your finger along the slit to open it up, then slip it over the exposed water supply pipes beneath sinks (along outside walls) and pipes in exposed places like garages, crawl spaces and attics. The pink fiberglass insulation can be wrapped around pipes too for an extra measure of plumbing protection. Use insulation anywhere pipes are exposed around your home (the attic or basement, for example). Be sure to cover outside hose bibs with Styrofoam insulation kits and if they have interior shutoff valves, turn them off then open the outside tap to drain remaining water out of the line. Close the tap and cover the faucet to protect it against the cold. Try to protect pipes that are close to the outer walls of your home and the ones that are exposed to the cold winter air.

Let your faucets drip

"A drip is enough to prevent your pipes from freezing."

Another way to prevent your pipes from freezing is to leave interior faucets around your house dripping. This is a particularly good tip to use for parts of your plumbing that you don't use often throughout the day, like the faucet in your shower. The small trickle of water is enough to prevent your pipes from freezing. Frozen pipes are most commonly found in the bathroom and kitchen, so shower and kitchen faucets are a good place to start.

Don't throw everything down the garbage disposal

With the large number of guests in your home, there will be plenty of food scraps thrown away after big holiday meals. Don't throw things down the garbage disposal that could be harmful. That includes grease and the bones and skin found on foods like turkeys and chickens. Throw these pieces, along with anything else you're unsure about in the trash, not in the disposal to help protect your plumbing.

Space out showers

This tip is more about comfort than anything else. If you and your guests don't space out your shower times during the winter, you could experience low water pressure from the showerhead or risk running your water heater out of hot water. With the cold temperatures outside, you can be sure everyone will appreciate a hot shower even more the usual. Don't deprive your guests (and yourself!) of that.

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