The weather is starting to get colder here in Houston, and it’s time to start thinking about winterizing your plumbing. As temperatures begin to hover around the freezing mark at night, there are a few things you can do to prevent freeze-related plumbing emergencies like burst pipes.
In the city of Houston, it is extremely rare to experience conditions known as a “hard freeze,” where temperatures fall to 25 degrees or lower for more than four hours. Hard freeze conditions are where most cold weather-related plumbing issues can arise. As temperatures drop, the water that is flowing through your pipes starts to freeze. As the water freezes and expands, it impedes the flow of the incoming water, creating more pressure until the pipe itself breaks.
What is the Best Way to Protect My Exposed Pipes?
To keep the exposed pipes around your home protected from the cold, you can use pipe wrap insulation, made from either traditional fiberglass or cotton, or you can use a pipe heating cable that uses electricity to maintain the temperature of your pipes.
If you haven’t prepared your exposed plumbing, and freezing temperatures are imminent, you can improve your chances of not having your pipes freeze by letting a small stream of water run from your faucets. Be sure to leave as many faucets trickling as possible, as having a constant flow of water warmer than 32 degrees helps to prevent ice from forming in your pipes.
Open the Cabinets, Turn on the Heat!
Simply opening the cabinets beneath your kitchen and bathroom sinks will allow warm air to circulate around your pipes, helping to prevent the formation of ice. Leaving the heat on in your home when you go out for the day will also go a long way to keeping your pipes from freezing.
What About My Sprinkler System?
One of the most overlooked parts of a home’s plumbing system during winterization is your outdoor irrigation system. The entirety of your sprinkler system is outdoors, and as a result is the most likely component of your plumbing system to freeze.
Getting your sprinkler system ready for freezing temperatures is incredibly simple, you can do it yourself in five minutes with a flat-head screwdriver. First, turn off the controller for your sprinkler system, then locate the backflow preventer and use the valve handle to turn off the water supply.
Locate the two bleeder valve set screws on the side of the fixture and turn each one approximately one-quarter of a turn (so that the screw slot is parallel to the pipe), which will release a spray of any standing water from within the backflow preventer. And you’re done.
While you’re outside, disconnect and drain any garden hoses you have, as these will freeze long before your pipes do. Pressure from a frozen garden hose will cause damage to the spigot it is connected to and could cause the supply pipe to that spigot to burst.
Nick’s Plumbing and Sewer Services has been providing plumbing services in the Houston area since 1979. Our licensed and experienced plumbing technicians are available to help you prepare your home for freezing weather, and we’ll be here after the thaw to help with any issues you may have as a result of the deep freeze.