Now is the time to secure homes against freezing pipes, according to American Water, the nation's largest publicly traded water and wastewater utility.
Mark LeChevallier, Ph.D, director of Innovation and Environmental Stewardship for American Water, stresses that it's important to make preparations to prevent water damage from frozen and burst pipes before temperatures plunge. “Although the winter season can pose many challenges to a homeowner, one of the biggest and most costly is the risk of frozen pipes. When ice expands inside pipes, it can crack and burst the pipe, leaving homeowners with a costly plumber bill, and thousands of dollars in damages from water leaking inside the house,” he explained.
According to Dr. LeChevallier, winterizing is just as important for homeowners in parts of the country that experience only periodic freezes as it is for those in traditional cold weather states, since home construction in southern locations will sometimes include pipes in unprotected locations without insulation, including crawl spaces, and these can be particularly at risk.
Luckily, these problems are preventable by evaluating areas of vulnerability throughout the home. Implementing the following American Water winterization tips now can help avoid headaches later:
- Search your house for uninsulated pipes, especially in unheated areas. Consider wrapping pipes with electric heating tape, but follow manufacturers' instructions carefully to avoid a fire hazard.
- Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations, especially where cable TV or phone lines enter the house, with caulking to keep cold winds away from pipes.
- If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, bleed the valves by opening them slightly. Close them when water appears.
- Make certain that the water to your hose bibs is shut off inside your house (via a turnoff valve), and that the lines are drained.
- Drain and shut off entirely the water to any unoccupied residence such as a summer or vacation home. A loss of power during a winter storm could cause pipes to freeze. If you intend to leave a property entirely without heat, be sure to drain all water to prevent the possibility of frozen pipes.
- Set the thermostat at 55 degrees if you’re going out of town. Although you may be able to get away with a lower temperature, this setting is considered to be safe for pipes.
- Consider wrapping your water heater in an insulation blanket. While not really at danger for freezing, this can lower your heating bills.