Summer is over & winter is fast approaching--what have you done to take care of your home's plumbing system?
If the answer is nothing, the fall season is the perfect time to transition your home's plumbing maintenance routine and help prepare for the colder months. We're going to discuss some fall plumbing tips that you should be aware of in order to prepare for colder months.
Keep reading for more information!
Begin Your Plumbing Maintenance Outside
To start your fall maintenance routine, begin outside of your home.
Locate all of your garden hoses, drain them, and then disconnect them from the faucet (also known as a hose bib) and store them. Failing to do so will leave water in the hose. When water freezes, it expands; when the water expands, the hose bib or faucet will burst when the water in it freezes. If the hose is disconnected the water will drain out of the hose bib and it won’t freeze.
Check your outdoor faucets for leaks. As cold weather approaches, leaking water can slowly begin to freeze, blocking the pipe. Eventually, this water and ice will build up and can be the cause of burst pipes.
After you've completed these steps, be sure to turn off the inside water supply valve (if there is one) and then drain the faucet by turning it on until no water runs out of it. Once the water stops flowing, turn the knob to the off position and cover it with a foam faucet cover.
Consider snaking your sewer line or calling a professional to perform this service. During the summer, plant roots grow and often try to make their way into your plumbing lines as a water source. Cooler weather means less growth and the perfect time to get rid of this problem and prevent root blockages.
Preparing Your Water Heater
Fall months can become surprisingly cold, and fast! One of the worst ways to wake up is to jump into a shower, expecting hot water, only to be blasted by what feels like ice.
Flush your water heater tank to remove any old debris. Sediment is heavier than water and tends to sink to the bottom of the tank. As it builds up, it forms a thick layer that the heating element has to heat, before ever reaching the water.
After you've finished flushing your water heater, check its thermostat. For the heater to run optimally, be sure the temperature is set at 49 C°. Most manufacturers set it to 60°C which makes the water hotter than necessary and wastes energy as a result.
If your water heater is more than 10 years old, has rust in the tank, or makes noise as it runs, you may need to replace the unit. This is definitely a task that is best suited for fall months, as a surprise of no hot water in the winter is unenjoyable and potentially dangerous.
Check Your Sump Pump
Throughout the winter, you can expect snowfall. When the temperature rises even slightly, the snow will melt and seep into the lower areas around your home. Of course, this is why you have a sump pump.
Unfortunately, when the outdoor discharge lines hold water they can freeze up when they are exposed to cold, rendering them useless. Make sure to take off any long extension pipes or hoses so that there is only a short stub coming out the side of your home. If you are in a newer home your sump pump may discharge directly into a storm drain on the side of your home.
Also check your sump pit for debris including sand and gravel. This is the cause of many sump pump failures and often results in flooding. While you’re having a look in the sump pit reach in and activate the switch to make sure its working. The switch usually looks like a large pill with a cord into one end, the pill will be floating on the water. Lift up the pill and the pump should turn on.
Insulate Indoor Pipes
Pipes that are located in your garage or along outside-facing walls should be insulated. This can be as simple as using thermal tape or securing blankets to provide a barrier between the cold and the pipe itself.
Although these pipes are at a lower risk for freezing than your hose bibs, it is still important to protect these. This reduces the risk of pipes bursting during freezing temperatures, potentially flooding your home and creating a huge mess.
Seal Air Leaks
When most people think air leaks, they think of their HVAC system and saving money on their gas bill. However, there is another reason to ensure that your home is airtight: your plumbing.
As cold air seeps into your home, it allows for yet another opportunity for your pipes to begin to freeze and your gas heating bills to rise. Most Edmonton homes are insulated fairly well, but sometimes in older homes the insulation begins to fall down within the wall cavity exposing small sections to cold air. We often find homes getting frozen pipes near west facing walls when its really cold and windy.
In order to efficiently seal any air leaks, turn off all fans and vents. Walk around with a lit incense stick near windows, doors, electrical outlets, and light switches. If the smoke blows around or sucks into that area, there is a potential leak that needs caulking or weatherstripping.
For people serious about sealing their home, there are home inspection services available that utilize thermal imaging to detect even the smallest of leaks and poorly insulated walls.
Create a Checklist for Vacations
If you are planning on a winter getaway or a short autumn trip, consider creating a checklist to ensure your home stays safe and avoids burst pipes. This checklist may include opening cabinet doors under sinks and leave a trickle of water.
Personally we prefer to turn the water completely off in the home. This way, if a line were to freeze and burst the home won’t flood while you’re gone. You’ll find a leak when you turn the water back on but you’ll still have a home to come back to!
Additionally, your thermostat should be set to 13°c (55°f )or warmer to ensure there is enough warm air circulating in your home to prevent your pipes from freezing.
Should your trip be a longer one, consider draining all pipes/faucets, and turning the water completely off. This will help protect your home in the event of a power outage or heater failure.
Also, make sure you have a trusted friend or neighbour check on your home frequently while you’re gone. If something did happen it will be caught fairly fast versus upon your return.
Call a Professional for Plumbing Problems
Should you happen to run into a problem that you aren't familiar with during your autumn plumbing maintenance, don't hesitate to call a professional.
The best advice to live by is to think ahead and be prepared. By taking the above steps--even if they seem like overkill--you can winterize your home and prevent major accidents from occurring.
If you'd like help completing this checklist or have run across a problem you can't seem to fix, don't hesitate to contact us, 24/7!