Prepare pipes now to avoid big hassles later
Cold winter weather
is here. And it's predicted
over the next
three months will be
Who wants to worry
with busted pipes
when it's freezing outside?
Besides being inconvenient,
leaks can also be expensive.
It pays many
times over to get
ready for cold weather
instead of dealing with
the aftermath of frozen
Take these steps to protect your plumbing system.
Before Cold Weather
- Show adult family members the main water shutoff valve
location. Teach them how to operate it.
- Close foundation vents. If the vents don't seal well, cut foam
pieces and slide them into vent openings.
- Seal gaps and openings where pipes enter the house.
- Protect outside faucets. Disconnect and store garden hoses.
- If the outside faucet has its own shutoff valve inside the
structure, close it and then open the outside faucet to drain
water from the pipe.
- If there's no separate shutoff, cover the outside faucet with
newspaper or rags under a layer of plastic. You can also buy
foam covers for this at home improvement stores.
- Insulate pipes in unheated areas, like attics, crawlspaces or
pump houses. DonŐt forget valves and fittings.
- If you have a pool or spa, follow the manufacturer's directions on
When Cold Weather Arrives
- Keep heat at 55 degrees or higher if you'll be away.
- Open cabinet doors under sinks, especially if the sink is located
on an outside wall. This allows more heat to circulate near the
- If extreme temperatures are forecast, let the water run in
faucets that are farthest from where the water supply enters the
home. A small trickle should be sufficient. Use cold water to
If Your Pipes Freeze
- Open all faucets.
- Remove any pipe insulation and wrap pipes in rags. Pour hot
water over the area, starting where exposure to freezing is
- Do not try to thaw pipes with any type of open flame.
If Your Pipes Burst
- Shut off the main water valve.
- Take precautions to avoid electrical shock from being in or near
- Call the plumber.
What About Heat Tape?
Heat tapes are plastic strips with embedded electric wires that are wrapped around pipes to keep
them from freezing. They plug into standard 120-volt outlets. They're mostly used in unheated areas (attics,
crawlspaces) and in mobile homes.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates there are 2,000 fires, 100 injuries and 10
deaths every year involving heat tapes.
Besides being a fire hazard from improper use, heat tapes also use energy, which increases your
electric bill. For these reasons, it's best to try to protect pipes by insulating them or other similar
If you decide to use heat tapes anyway, make sure they're certified by the Underwriter's Laboratory
and follow the manufacturer's directions to the letter.