Winterizing Your Home
Be water wise, winterize!
Preventing Frozen Pipes
Every winter, homeowners in the state of Georgia suffer from the destruction, frustration, and financial burden caused by freezing and bursting water pipes because they did not go through the proper process of winterizing your home.
Freezing can occur in any water pipe exposed to temperatures of 32 °F or below. As freezing water expands, it generates enough pressure to burst pipes and fixtures. When frozen pipes thaw, flooding can occur and cause extensive damage. Pipes in garages, attics, crawl spaces, and unheated rooms are particularly susceptible to freezing. Pipes in exterior walls may also freeze with temperatures below freezing during severely cold weather.
During the winter, if you are going to be away from your mountain home for more than a day, certain home-winterizing steps should be followed. By taking a few simple precautions, you can avoid the frustration, destruction, and expenses caused by frozen pipes. The City of Big Bear Lake Department of Water (DWP) recommends you use this guide to help prevent frozen pipes and protect your investment.
What to Know About Winterizing Your Home Before Cold Weather Hits
- Know Where Your Shut-Off Valve Is: All responsible household members should know where the home’s shut-off valve is located prior to needing it for an emergency. Every home should be equipped with a shut-off valve called a “stop and drain valve”. Generally, a stop and drain valve is located on the service line on your side of the water meter, near the house (see plumbing diagram below). Mark your stop and drain valve with a tall stake so it can be easily identified under heavy snow. The KV valve, inside the meter box, is not for winterization use.
- Get a Stop and Drain Valve Key: When winterizing your home, using pliers or a wrench can cause damage to your stop and drain valve. Specially designed stop and drain valve keys are available at local hardware stores. Make sure you keep the key in an easy to reach location, but never leave it at the valve.
- Insulate Pipes and Faucets: If you have pipes in unheated areas, such as the garage or a crawl space under the house, insulate them with items such as pipe wrap, foam jackets, or heat tape. Insulating products are available at local hardware stores or building supply retailers. Follow all manufacturers’ installation and operation instructions. If you have questions, call a professional for help.
- Seal Off Air Leaks: With cold winter winds, a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to freeze a pipe. Look for leaks around dryer vents, electrical wiring, and pipes. Use caulk or insulation to keep the cold air out. Don’t cover or block air vents for your water heater or furnace; proper ventilation is important for those items.
Winterizing your Home: The Ultimate Checklist
Shut Off and Drain Outdoor Irrigation System
The DWP requires irrigation systems to be shut off from November 1st to April 1st.
- Set the automatic irrigation controller to the “Off” setting.
- Turn off water to the irrigation system at the stop and drain valve. Many homes have separate stop and drain valves for the outdoor water supply. Make sure the different valves are labeled so they are easy to identify.
- Drain all water out of any irrigation components that might freeze. Some systems may drain automatically.
- Disconnect garden hoses from hose bibs.
Shut Off and Drain Indoor Plumbing
- Shut off water using the stop and drain valve. Use caution to make sure this valve has been completely turned off. If this valve isn't closed correctly, the water will continue to feed the house and/or flow out the drain valve port.
- Drain all water out of the pipes by opening every faucet until the water stops running. After the water has stopped, turn off the faucets. If water does not stop, go check the stop and drain valve to make sure it’s shut off all the way.
- Flush Toilets.
- Pour biodegradable anti-freeze into all toilet bowls and sinks to displace water in the drain pipes. Carefully follow manufacturers’ instructions and always store in a child and pet proof location.
- Open your hot water drain valve, usually located at the low point of your hot water pipes. If you choose to drain your hot water tank, turn off the gas or electric supply to the heater.
Alternative Freeze Prevention
Did you know that an eighth-inch (three millimeter) crack in a pipe can leak up to 250 gallons (946 liters) of water per day? That's a problem nobody wants to have.
Instead of draining your home’s water system, you may heat the home to avoid freezing pipes. However, leaving your thermostat at 45 to 55 degrees does NOT always ensure that the pipes will not freeze. Winter storms may cause power outages, which will cause some heating systems to shut off, resulting in frozen pipes.
If Your Pipes Freeze
If you turn on the faucets and nothing comes out, call RooterPLUS. We can send a field employee to your home to help evaluate the situation. If you have detected that your pipes are frozen, you may need to call a plumber or wait for the pipes to thaw out. Turning up the home’s thermostat might help unfreeze the pipes.
Open all faucets in the house. When water freezes, it expands by 1/5th its original volume. By relieving pressure, due to the expanding water, you may avoid additional pipe damage.
Once your pipes have thawed, it is important that you carefully inspect your home for any signs of a leak. The freezing of the pipes could have caused a pinhole leak, hairline break, or large crack.