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How Winter Affects Your Plumbing and How to Prevent Damage

pipe leak

Tips and tricks to help keep the pipes in your home from freezing during cold winter weather.

Winter Plumbing Tips and Tricks

Plumbing maintenance issues change throughout the seasons. During the winter, you need to put in measures to combat pipe freeze since the cold weather can put your pipes and other plumbing systems at risk. However, people often worry about keeping warm that they forget to get their pipes fixed or maintained until winter comes and pipes start bursting.

This winter, it is crucial that you take extra caution and protect your pipes from the cold weather. If you cannot do this task yourself, consider contacting Gallegos Plumbing, your professional Ventura County local plumber.

Table of Contents

  • What Causes Burst Pipes?
  • Common Winter Plumbing Problems
    • » Frozen Pipes
    • » Water Line Leaks
    • » Broken Water Heaters
    • » Clogged Drains
  • Tips to Prepare Your Plumbing System for the Winter
    • 1. Know Where Your Home’s Main Water Valve is Safety first!
    • 2. Keep the Heat Going!
    • 3. Turn Off Exterior Water Valves to Prevent Frozen Pipes
    • 4. Drain the Sprinkler System
    • 5. Install a Heat Cable
    • 6. Try Not to Clog Your Drains
    • 7. Ensure Your Water Heater Runs Properly
    • 8. Take Action During a Deep Freeze
  • Professional Help from Your Trusted Ventura County Plumber

What Causes Burst Pipes?

Most things contract as they get colder, right? Not for water, though, as the water expands when it freezes.

When pipes are insulated, the air in the surrounding area has to be very cold for a prolonged time before you’d experience a burst. However, not all pipes are well-insulated. If some of your plumbing runs through a crawl space, basement, or garage, your water lines run the risk of freezing in just a few hours.

But It’s Not That Cold in Southern California.

In a large part of California, winter temperatures are cool to mild, except in the mountains and the northern part of the state. But, can pipes freeze in Southern California?

Yes! Pipes do freeze during the winter in Southern California.

You shouldn’t let your guard down just because it’s a mild winter in Ventura County and most of Southern California. We’ve even had to deal with burst pipes during the summer.

Frozen pipes aren’t an issue that only faces residents of California. Over 300,000 Americans experience property damage every year due to burst pipes. The good thing, though, is that it rarely gets cold enough in Ventura County for water lines to freeze, as long as your pipes are adequately protected, that is.

By doing some simple maintenance, you can protect your home or business from pipe ruptures. As previously mentioned, the winter season can be tough on your plumbing system for several reasons. Before we get into how you can winterize plumbing pipes in a house, let’s have a look at common winter plumbing problems you are likely to face.

Common Winter Plumbing Problems

» Frozen Pipes

Low winter temperatures can lead to frozen pipes. But how do you know if your pipe is frozen?

One of the earliest signs of frozen plumbing is when water doesn’t come out of your faucet when you turn it on. Once you notice this, confirm that you have turned the water on and there’s no leak. After you do this, continue your inspection to make sure that none of your pipes have burst. If you find out that your water pipes are frozen, you can then call a plumber to help thaw the frozen pipes.

Frozen Pipes Leak

» Water Line Leaks

So, what happens when you don’t detect frozen pipes in time?

When the temperature drops, water can freeze within your pipes, which drastically increases the likelihood of a burst occurring.

Sometimes a burst isn’t directly caused by a frozen pipe. Sure, you may be able to thaw the line if you catch it on time but do this one too many times, and the constant expansion and contraction might damage the pipes leading to unpleasant leaks.

A burst pipe could cause flooding both indoors and out, so protection is essential as even the smallest leak could cause significant damage to your house if you don’t get it fixed on time. Call Gallegos Plumbing to provide you the best Leak Detection Services.

» Broken Water Heaters

Did you know that frigid winter temperatures can cause damage to other fixtures than only to your pipes?

Cold weather might result in the malfunctioning of the water heater. Your water heater might start to leak, especially if it is an older model located in an area without heat, such as the basement.

Varying temperature as your water heater works harder in the winter causes the metal to flex and contract with the temperature changes. It isn’t a bad thing for your water heater unless it’s old and being overworked.

A water heating system in proper working condition is essential during the cold winter days. So if you notice rust in your water, cracking, bulging, or that your water heater is unable to reach the set temperature, it’s probably time to get a new one.

Clogged Drains

» Clogged Drains

We are all probably aware that oils and grease poured down the kitchen sink solidify upon cooling, leading to clogged drains. In the cold temperatures of winter, the fat and oils stiffen even more in the pipes, and they could even combine with frozen water to leave you with winter plumbing clogs in the pipes.

Avoid disposing of oils and grease in the sink to avoid clogs in the winter.

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Also Read: Why Hydro Jetting is a great solution for drain cleaning

Tips to Prepare Your Plumbing System for the Winter

To keep your holiday season flowing smoothly, you should do what you can to help prevent plumbing failures from happening. Take these eight steps to help prepare your plumbing system against freezing pipes and other common cold-weather plumbing problems.

1. Know Where Your Home’s Main Water Valve is Safety first!

While this seems like something, every homeowner is aware of, knowing the location of your water main is the single most crucial plumbing tip for cold weather. In case a major plumbing emergency occurs – such as a pipe bursting, the first thing you’ll need to do is to shut off all the water in the home immediately.

You might prepare for all the most common plumbing problems in winter and still end up with a plumbing problem such as a frozen or burst pipe. In this case, a shutoff of the water valves could be what stands between you and a colossal repair bill. However, you need to know where your water main is located and understand how to operate the valve.

2. Keep the Heat Going!

Your home’s heating system works harder in the winter months, which results in higher power bills.

It can be tempting to lower the thermostat when you’re away from home during the day or when you’re sleeping at night to save some money. While you might enjoy huge savings on your home’s electricity bill by cranking down the thermostat, you have to ensure your house remains warm enough to protect you from frozen pipes, lest you spend even more on plumbing bills.

So, what are the proper thermostat settings for maximum savings while protecting against frozen pipes?

Set your home’s temperature no lower than 45F, and your pipes and wallet will be fine.

3. Turn Off Exterior Water Valves to Prevent Frozen Pipes

When winter approaches, be sure to turn off outdoor faucets and disconnect hoses from them. Proceed to drain the hoses and store them in a warm location.

Ensure that you thoroughly drain your faucets to prevent any remaining drops of water from freezing and damaging the fixtures. Also, you can use the main water valve to shut off the water’s flow before opening and closing the tap outside to release any water in the pipe.

In addition, consider installing bib covers on your outdoor water faucets to prevent ice from forming in freezing temperatures. They are cheap, easy to install, and invaluable. Alternatively, you could install frost-free sillcocks.

4. Drain the Sprinkler System

Is your yard equipped with an automatic or manual sprinkler system? Ensure that you turn off and drain your irrigation system before the cold comes about. You’ll thank yourself in the spring.

Simply turning off your water sprinkler isn’t enough since the pipes that supply your sprinklers with water could also freeze during the cold months. If a frozen pipe happens to burst, it could have a disastrous impact on your irrigation system. So, before you turn the sprinklers off, follow this simple two-step process to ensure that you completely drain your sprinklers and pipes:

  • Turn off the water. Locate your main water valve and cut off the water supply
  • Drain each valve. Individually drain each valve that’s linked to the sprinkler system.

Unlike most plumbing fixtures, damage to your water sprinkler is likeliest to occur when the system is not in use. The freezing and thawing of water in your irrigation system might create cracks and weak spots, which may lead to silent underground leaks or mini-geysers in your yard.

5. Install a Heat Cable

Don’t want to deal with freezing pipes in the winter?

Make use of self-regulating heating cables. Self-regulating heating cables are great at providing pipe freeze protection when you need it the most and serve the purpose of freeze protection and de-icing of metal or plastic pipes and valves when cold temperatures come about. Don’t worry about a spike in the power bill as these heating cables have a thermostat that senses pipe temperature, turning the heat on and off when required to keep the pipe from freezing.

How about just insulating the pipe? Pipe insulation alone does not help. It could even prevent warm air from getting in contact with the water pipe, so you’ll want to combine it with a heat cable. A reliable pipe heating cable system depends on properly installed and dry, weatherproofed thermal insulation.

6. Try Not to Clog Your Drains

Fat, Oil, and Grease (FOG) are the number one cause of kitchen sink clogs and slow draining sinks.

These substances go down the drain quickly in a liquid state (think hot bacon grease in a pan), but as they move through your drainage pipes, the fat cools, coating your pipes’ insides. The more you pour these substances down the drain, the thicker and thicker the coating gets until you experience a slow drain or complete blockage.

As for your garbage disposal, be sure to dispose of food waste and vegetable peels in the trash! Avoid throwing banana peels, eggshells, onion peels, potato peels, rice, pasta, and so on down the garbage disposal or sink drain.

Even with the best of intentions, you’ll experience a clogged drain sooner or later. If this happens, Gallegos Plumbing recommends attempting to clear the clog with a plunger. Yes, they aren’t just for toilets! A plunger will help you get rid of food particles or objects stuck in the P-trap.

7. Ensure Your Water Heater Runs Properly

No hot water throughout the house is probably every homeowner’s worst nightmare in wintertime.

A properly functioning water heater is essential in every home during the cold season when warm baths and warmer showers become a daily necessity. With this in mind, every homeowner should have their water heater inspected as soon as the autumn leaves start shedding. Have a certified plumber come and inspect your water heater and perform any needed maintenance. Some of the things to check for include sediment buildup and corrosion.

Also, when adjusting the water temperature during winter, don’t set the dial above 125 degrees F. This will protect you from scalding water and reduce your energy footprint.

8. Take Action During a Deep Freeze

Are you experiencing a deep freeze? (23°F and Below)

Follow Gallegos Plumbing’s tips to help your plumbing system get through a deep freeze:

  • Open cabinet doors leading to exposed pipes. This way, household air can warm them up and prevent freezing
  • Open a faucet farthest from where your water enters your house. A very slow drip keeps the water molecules moving, reducing the chance that pipes will freeze.
  • Keep your garage doors shut
  • Set your thermostat above 65 degrees when leaving your house for several days

Also Read: Are Your Pipes Ready for Winter?

Professional Help from Your Trusted Ventura County Plumber

Keep winter plumbing problems at bay by calling a professional as soon as you spot plumbing problems in your Ventura County home.

Gallegos Plumbing is a trusted Ventura County plumber known for experienced technicians, superior work, and consistency. We offer a full spectrum of expert plumbing solutions from our plumbers in Ventura for your home or business. No job is too big or small! You can rely on the quality and consistency of Gallegos Plumbing.

Gallegos Plumbing is Ventura County’s top choice for emergency plumbing services for residences, commercial businesses, and condominiums. We are at your service any time you may need us, 24/7.

Contact us today at (805) 243-2622 or request our plumbing services online.

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