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Tips to Avoid Common Winter Plumbing Problems

Dec 17, 2019

Icicles dripping down from a house covered in winter snow. Lights bulbs hang from the roof.

It’s been a pretty mild December in the DMV region so far, but temperatures are still dropping. While we all may be dreaming of a white Christmas, heavy snow and cold winds could cause potentially damaging winter plumbing problems if your home isn’t prepared.

Home plumbing systems are more susceptible to a variety of common problems during the colder, winter months. As a homeowner, it’s important to not only be aware of these common winter plumbing issues, but also have a means of preventing them. Preparing your home for winter is an important task every homeowner should take seriously. Save yourself the headache this year by protecting your plumbing before it gets any colder.

Common Winter Plumbing Problems and How to Avoid Them

1. Hot Water Issues

Few things are as miserable as getting out of bed on a freezing winter morning only to discover that your hot water heater isn’t heating up water after all. You’re choices are an ice-cold shower or none at all while you hustle to figure out what’s wrong.

Hot water heaters need to work a lot harder in the winter months to give you the same hot water you expect throughout the rest of the year. The water coming through the pipes is much colder, putting the heater under more stress to get it to the temperature you want. Hot water heater failure is chief among common winter plumbing problems.

How to Prevent Hot Water Heater Failure

In order to avoid some icy showers during the cold months ahead, be sure to have your hot water heater inspected by a professional. By having your heater serviced, you’ll extend its life and enhance its ability to keep up with the higher demands.

Reducing your hot water usage during the winter months can also help lessen the stress. Additionally, you can check your temperature gauge to be sure the heater never exceeds 140 degrees in the winter.

2. Frozen Pipes

This is a common and frustrating winter plumbing problem. Due to high water pressure from the main water lines combined with freezing or below freezing temperatures, you easily have a recipe for disaster if you’re not careful. Since water expands when it freezes, burst pipes can be an unfortunate and expensive outcome of common winter plumbing problems.

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

If you’ve noticed a change in your water flow, that could be a sign of a frozen pipe since the most obvious tell is a restricted water flow. If you suspect your pipes are frozen or if you know it’s going to be freezing temperatures, you can leave your tap open slightly in order to allow water flow. This gentle flow of water can help prevent pipes from freezing or clear up a blockage that’s already started.

If that’s not an option, then you’ll want to cut off your main water valve and contact a plumbing professional right away if you suspect a frozen pipe. In cases of extreme low temperatures, you can wrap exposed pipes with insulation or even heat tape so the water inside can’t freeze.

3. Clogged Pipes

Frozen pipes aren’t the only kind of blocked pipe or winter plumbing problem. When it gets cold, there are a few substances in your drains that could coagulate. Grease and food particles can easily plug up your pipes in the winter time.

How to Avoid Clogged Pipes

Don’t pour oil or grease down a drain. That goes for sinks, toilets, bathtubs — any plumbing fixture at all. If you have a garbage disposal, avoid tossing in meat or fat scraps, pasta, bread, or other types of foods that can easily thicken and form a clog. If you end up having a clog, you might need plumbing maintenance to resolve the problem.

4. Water Line Break

When the temperature drops below freezing outside, keep in mind that an attached garden hose can lead to serious damage inside your home. When left connected to an exterior faucet following a freeze, all the ice within the hose can build up pressure inside your home’s water lines. This can cause a serious leak or even a break.

How to Avoid a Water Line Break

When it starts getting cold out, drain and disconnect your water hose and make sure the tap is closed. For extra protection, install a faucet jacket around your exterior faucets in order to shield them from freezing temperatures.

Stay warm and dry this winter

When it comes to preparing your home for winter, checking on your home’s plumbing system is a top priority. But even the most prepared home can fall victim to common winter plumbing problems. Luckily, CroppMetcalfe offers emergency plumbing services to help homeowners in their time of need, no matter when that may be.

Call CroppMetcalfe at 703-372-9359 to speak with one of our plumbing experts or contact us online to schedule a service appointment today.


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