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Frozen pipes can easily cost you thousands of dollars by ruining building materials and personal property. Fortunately, you can prepare your pipes for freezing temperatures with a few basic supplies and a basic understanding of your plumbing system.
In order to properly winterize your home, you need to first identify pipes and faucets that are more likely to freeze and burst. Ideally, you should do this before temperatures drop below freezing.
Water lines in heated areas will be fine in the winter, but you can buy insulation to save some money by keeping them from losing too much heat in chilly weather. If your home has an unheated basement or other unheated areas, look for exposed pipes and faucets and keep them covered with plastic foam or professional pipe covers. Your objective is to provide a little bit of extra warmth, but you don’t need to go overboard here–a small amount of insulation goes a long ways.
If you’re not planning on running a faucet regularly during the winter, turn it on and allow it to drip slightly. This relieves the pressure in the line, which should help to prevent the pipe from bursting. You don’t need water pouring out of the faucet, however. Only let indoor faucets drip.
For heated areas, keep your thermostat keyed to 55 degrees Fahrenheit or higher at all times. If you’re planning on leaving your house for a few days, leave the heat running to avoid coming home to a huge mess. Expose your pipes to the heated air by opening cabinets if you’re lowering the thermostat to anywhere near 55 degrees. If you’re going to leave for more than a few days, turn off the water line and completely drain the water by leaving the faucets running. You should also turn off the electricity for your water heater or temporarily disconnect your gas supply line, depending on whether your home has an electric or gas water heater.
Once you’re done with the inside of your home, head outside. Cover vents, insulate exterior pipes and drain all of your hoses. If you’ve got any expensive electrical pumps, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to winterize them. Don’t run them in extreme cold or you could face a hefty repair bill in the spring.
Finally, make sure that you know what to do if your pipes burst. You should know where your home’s water shutoff valve is located. Practice turning it on and off once so that you don’t encounter any unpleasant surprises during an emergency. Keep the number of a reputable flood restoration company by your phone and make sure that your family members know what to do if a pipe bursts while you’re away. If you take the time to winterize your pipes, you probably won’t have anything to worry about, but preparing yourself for an emergency takes only a few minutes and could save you thousands of dollars in water damage.
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