5 Plumbing Considerations for the Winter

Most homeowners know that it’s a good idea to test out their home’s heating system before the cold of winter starts to set in. But that’s not all they should do. They should also take steps to prepare their home’s plumbing as well. Otherwise, the cold might wreak havoc on their pipes and fixtures, leading to catastrophic damage. The good news is that preparing your plumbing for winter isn’t difficult. Here are five plumbing considerations for the winter to get you started.

1. Winterize Your Outside Faucets

The first thing to consider when preparing your plumbing for winter is that your outdoor faucets and the pipes leading to them are the most vulnerable to damage from the cold. So, that means you’ll need to shut off their water supply. To do this, you should locate each outdoor faucet’s shutoff valve. Most of the time they’re found in your basement ceiling near each outdoor faucet. You’ll need to turn off each valve, and then open the corresponding outdoor faucet to let the remaining water run out. Then, locate the line’s bleeder valve and open it to remove any remaining air or water from the vulnerable pipe.

2. Consider Protection For Exposed Indoor Pipes

While you were in your basement turning off the shutoff valves for your outdoor faucets, you may have noticed that other uninsulated pipes were running through your home as well. And even though they’re indoors, they may be vulnerable to freezing in the winter cold. This is especially true of pipes running along or near exterior walls. For those, the addition of heat tape for pipes is a good idea. Heat tape uses electricity to warm your pipes in response to dropping temperatures. It’s efficient, simple to install, and will keep the water flowing through your home no matter how cold it gets outside.

3. Open Sink Cabinet Doors When the Temperature Drops

Another place where your home’s pipes may be vulnerable to the cold is where supply lines connect to your kitchen and bathroom faucets. Those are typically found inside under-sink cabinets, where the warm air from your home’s heating system can’t reach them. But there’s a quick fix for that. When the temperature drops below freezing, open the doors of your under-sink cabinets. This allows the warm air in your home to circulate freely and prevent those vulnerable outlets from freezing. It’s a simple trick that can prevent unnecessary damage in the winter. It’s especially useful for homeowners in warmer climates, where plumbing systems aren’t designed for the cold and could be more prone to freezing in cold weather.

4. Let a Faucet Drip To Relieve Pressure on Pipes

One of the challenges of preparing your plumbing for the cold of winter is that you can’t access the pipes in your walls to inspect them or add additional insulation. This means that, despite your best efforts, some parts of your plumbing system may remain vulnerable to the cold. But there’s one more thing to do to protect your pipes when the mercury drops. It’s to locate the faucet in your home that’s furthest away from where the water main enters, and turn it on just enough for it to drip. Doing so creates a makeshift pressure relief valve – like the bleeder valves on your outdoor supply lines. This gives the air in your pipes somewhere to go if a pipe freezes and should prevent it from bursting under the added pressure.

5. Turn off Your Home’s Water Supply When You’re Away

Last but not least, it’s a good idea to consider turning off your home’s water supply if you plan to be away for more than a day or two in the winter. Although doing so won’t prevent indoor pipes from freezing, it will prevent catastrophic damage if one does while you’re away. But beware – if you have an automatic ice maker or any other appliances that rely on water, you’ll want to shut those off too. They could be damaged if they continue to operate once your home’s pipes run dry.

The Bottom Line

By paying a bit of extra attention to your home’s plumbing before and during the winter, it should be able to survive the cold without difficulty. That means you won’t find yourself dealing with an expensive disaster when the temperature drops. So add these five considerations to your winter preparation list and spend the cold months secure in the knowledge that your home will emerge in the spring damage-free.


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