Protecting Those Indoor Pipes this Winter


dreamstime_xxl_11871242In our last blog we told you about the most important outdoor pipes to protect now that winter is coming, including sprinkler systems, outdoor spigots, and swimming pools. Ignore prepping those pipes for winter and you’ll be calling an emergency plumber this spring.

Now it’s time to talk about those indoor pipes. In most circumstances you don’t have to worry about indoor pipes much. After all, your house is relatively warm, even if you keep the thermostat at 60-degrees and wear a bunch of sweaters. But there are times when it’s important to take extra precautions to ensure that your pipes don’t freeze.

But first…Why Do Pipes Freeze? Freshwater pipes freeze because they’re constantly filled with water. If you think about it, when you turn on your kitchen sink it’s not sending the signal to your local water company to send you water; it’s using the water that’s already in your house and in your pipes. That water has a lot of pressure behind it. When water freezes, it expands. If that expansion has nowhere to go, it’s going to force it’s way out anyway it can and cause your pipes to break. Strangely, water is the only liquid on earth that expands when heated and when frozen. If it acted like everything else, we’d never have to deal with this problem!

Now, on to your local plumber’s advice…

Pipes in Cold Areas

If you look at the blueprints of most homes, the location of the water pipes is already helping you prevent frozen pipes. Pipes are often kept between interior walls instead of exterior walls. But not all homes designs allow for this trick, so it’s important to baby the pipes a little on the coldest days if you have pipes that are more exposed.

If you have pipes that run through your garage, makes sure to keep your garage door closed. Closing your garage door will not only help keep your pipes warm but will also help keep your entire house warm. Pipes that are in crawl spaces should be insulated.

Let It Drip

If your pipes are prone to freezing and the weatherman is predicting a record cold, you might want to leave your faucets dripping a little. While we usually don’t advocate wasting water, a pipe with any water flowing through it is less likely to freeze than one that has still water. This is because a drip will allow warmer water that been heated by the constant temperature underground to mix with the colder water that has been cooled by the uninsulated air. (And hey, if you put a pot under your faucet, you can save that water and have spaghetti the next day!)

Going On Vacation

plumber-3Most people will turn down the thermostat when they go on vacation. It really does make sense, because it will save you money on your heating bill. Still, you should keep it above 55 degrees to ensure that your pipes don’t freeze. You can also open open the cabinets that are under bathroom sinks and kitchen sinks in order to facilitate warm airflow around the pipes. (Because of the chemicals that are often kept under there, make sure that you wait until any little kids are already bundled up in the van before you do this, or remove any chemicals or cleaning agents from these areas completely.)

Winter in Denver is certainly a lot easier to survive than it was a hundred years ago, but we still have a few problems we have to deal with living in such a cold climate. We’d love to help you with our plumbing needs, but we certainly hope you’ll follow the above advice so that you don’t have to call and emergency plumber when spring comes around…or sooner! If that does happen, call us and we’ll take care of you.