With the summer season fading into fall, it won't be long before the temperatures start dropping into the harsh winter chill. As a new homeowner, understanding how to protect your home's plumbing system from the negative effects of freezing is important. Going into your first winter, you may find that you want to have a plumbing contractor come out and inspect the system. In addition to that, here are some things you should keep in mind.
Know Where To Find The Shutoff Valves
Before the weather takes any kind of downturn, you need to be sure of where the shutoff valves are. Look for and make a note of the shutoff valves in each of the main plumbing areas inside the house. It's important that you know how to shut them off in the event of a burst pipe. You should also locate the main water shutoff valve. That's essential for dealing with a larger water emergency. Once you find them, test each valve to be sure that they are working. If there's one that is seized up, you should have your plumber replace it. Otherwise, you may not be able to turn the water off if you need to.
Close Off Your Outdoor Fixtures
Now is also the time to address any outside fixtures. Disconnect and drain your outdoor hose, then drain and close the shut-off valve and line that run to the outside fixture. Don't skip the draining step, because any water left in that line could be vulnerable to freezing when the weather gets cold, and that could leave you having to replace the hose bib and potentially some of the plumbing that runs on that exterior wall.
The best way to drain the line is to close the shutoff valve so that there's no water running to it. Then, open the faucet on the outside of the house and let it run until nothing comes out. Leave the faucet open to ensure that no water accumulates inside it. You can even talk with your plumber about replacing the fixture with a frost-resistant unit so that you minimize your chances of any freezing.
Prepare The Rest Of The Pipes
The more proactive you are about protecting your pipes from the cold, the better off your home will be through the winter. Take steps before the fall is over so that you're ready when the temperatures drop.
Start by addressing any pipes that run in the basement or any other un-insulated areas. Those spaces will get cold, so you need to be sure the pipes are insulated. You can wrap them with additional insulation or even cover them with heat tape. If it gets drastically cold through the winter in your area, heat tape is the best option.
Cover your hot water tank in an insulated tank blanket as well. That reduces the chances of any kind of freezing in the lines on the tank. When the weather is going to be particularly cold, keep a faucet or two running at least at a trickle so that the water stays moving. Keeping the water moving gives you more protection against freezing.
Keep The Heat On
Even if you're going out of town, don't turn your heat off or down below about 55 degrees. You should also keep your cabinet doors open in areas that have pipes running through them. This keeps air circulation flowing, which will reduce the chances of pipe freezing.
With these tips and the help of a licensed plumber, you can get your home's plumbing system ready for winter. The more you understand, the more empowered you'll be to protect your pipes and save costly repair bills through the cold weather season.