Water can freeze and break pipes, causing significant damage to walls, ceilings, floors and personal possessions stored in the basement or crawl spaces. By disconnecting hoses, shutting off valves and insulating you pipes, you can avoid this costly damage.
1. Drain and disconnect your hoses – Be sure to drain all garden hoses and disconnect them from your home. If hoses are left connected, water can freeze in them and bust your outdoor pipes.
2. If you leave your home, set your thermostat to 55 F - If you are leaving your home for more than a couple of days, make sure that your thermostat is set to no lower than F 55. This will insure that your pipes, will have adequate heat to keep from freezing.
3. Avoid frozen pipes - Exposed pipes represent the largest water threat to your home during the winter months. When water freezes it expands and can bust or crack your pipes, sending thousands of gallons of water into your home. Walls, ceilings, floors and personal possessions stored in the basement or crawl spaces can all be ruined.
Be sure to first identify, and then properly insulate any exposed pipes that may be in crawl spaces, basements, garages or on the exterior of your house. You can insulate your pipes with foam-rubber pipe insulation to protect exposed pipes from cold. The insulation process is straightforward. Simply slip foam-rubber insulation over pipe, peel away backing strips, then press the adhesive surfaces together.
Another option is to wrap your exposed pipes with electrical heating tape. These tapes are specifically designed to wrap around water pipes and act like a little electric blanket preventing the pipes from freezing. Be sure any heating tapes you buy have been approved by Underwriters Laboratories and have the UL symbol on them.
4. Know where your water main is located - If you have a busted pipe, you will need to know where your water main is located to turn off the water for your home. When you locate the shut off valve, be sure to test it to make sure it is in good working order.
5. Consider a tankless (on-demand) water heater – If it is time to replace your hot water heater, consider going tankless. Tankless water heaters provide hot water right where you need it, when you need it, without a storage tank. Using electricity, gas, or propane as a heat source, tankless water heaters, in some cases, can cut your water-heating bill by 10 to 20%. The savings come by eliminating standby losses – energy wasted by warmed water sitting in your storage tank.
6. Reduce the water temperature of the water heater – Chances are you can turn down the thermostat on your home’s water heater a few degrees and still have plenty of hot water for everyone’s daily shower, not to mention the dishes and laundry. Lowering the temperature from F 140 to F 120 could reduce your water heating costs by 6 to 10%.
7. Ensure your water pipes are well insulated – Insulating your water pipes is an easy way to cut the energy consumption of your water heater by preventing heat loss. The water will also be at a higher temperature when it reaches its final destination, which means that you can lower the temperature of your hot water heater by a few degrees. Installation is generally inexpensive and easy. Many DIY stores sell insulation kits. Be sure to check the kit box to make sure that you have all the needed tools for installation.
8. Buy a water heater insulation blanket – Buying a water heater insulation blanket (for tank water heaters) is an easy way to reduce energy costs. Water heater insulation blankets reduce your water heater’s energy consumption by up to 10 percent. Installation is simple and can be done in a few minutes. When buying, take notice of the R-value of the insulation. The higher the R-value, the more insulating effect you will receive.
9. Watch for frozen pipes - If you notice any change in your water pressure, you may have a frozen pipe. To locate which pipe may be frozen, test the water pressure in different locations around your house. Once you have located the pipe with the ice blockage, open the faucet. You can then use a heat gun or blow dryer to thaw frozen pipe. Don’t use propane torch or other open flame. If the frozen section of pipe is inaccessible, use an electric pipe-thawing machine.
10. Drain your air conditioner pipes - Be sure to check your window mounted air conditioner pipes to make sure that they do not have any water in them. If the unit has a water shut off valve, turn this off.