Hudson Valley winters can be tough – and tough on your home plumbing. As the temperature drops to the freezing point, you need to winterize your home and prepare your plumbing to avoid potential problems.
Pipes can freeze, burst, and cause a water emergency if they are below 32 degrees for any length of time. Repairing a burst pipe will cost you money, but water damage can easily cost thousands of dollars to repair. Consider this: A crack in a pipe that is just an eighth of an inch can leak more than 200 gallons of water a day!
Outside, make sure that your hose faucets are turned off on both the outside and the inside of the house. Frost-free hose bibs are a smart upgrade to help prevent your pipes from freezing. A common freeze-up situation happens when a pipe is just a little exposed and the weather is both cold and windy. The wind increases the exposure of the pipe.
Pipes that run outside your home, along exterior walls and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets are also subject to freezing and should be insulated. Under the right conditions, even a hot water pipe can freeze! Be sure to insulate your pipes in unheated areas such as the basement, attic and crawlspaces. Internal pipes tend to freeze at much lower temperatures than most homeowners would expect. When you are not going to be home, keep the heat at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Finally, if your heat goes out for an extended period, make sure to turn of the water at the main shut-off valve and open the faucets. Frozen water expands when it thaws. This can cause a burst pipe when there is nowhere for the expanding water to go. If the taps are left open, the water will find a way out without bursting a pipe. You should also open the cabinet doors under the sinks so that warmer air can circulate around them.
If your pipes do freeze or you suspect a water leak, turn off the main water supply. Unless you're very skilled, it is best to leave a burst pipe problem for a professional plumber to fix. Contact your insurance company if there is any sort of water damage to your home. Avoid thawing any pipe with any sort of open flame. This could cause further damage to your pipes or, in the worst-case scenario, even start a fire.
Prevention is always better than a problem. Follow these winter plumbing tips, and you'll have running water all season!