Winter has been relatively mild in its first month, so even if you haven’t done it already, it’s still a good time to winterize your outdoor plumbing. Attending to your outdoor faucets and water pipes to prevent frozen pipes and water damage is easy to overlook during preparations, but they’re an important step to winterize your home. Take care of this now to prevent heavier problems later.
Pipes usually do not burst where the pipe freezes. Rather, they burst downstream, where the water pressure is stronger. This is often between the freeze and a closed spigot. Protecting your outside pipes and outside water faucets against freezing can help eliminate the possibility of a burst pipe. Any uninsulated exterior pipe is susceptible to freezing damage, and a burst pipe in the exterior wall of a home can cause thousands of dollars of water damage to the walls, floors, ceiling and even furniture.
Checking the valves
Inspect all outdoor spigots and make sure to disconnect, drain and store garden hoses for the winter. Use spray foam insulation to fill any openings around the hose bib to prevent cold air from accessing the interior of the wall and possibly freezing the pipes inside.
If your outdoor water faucets have a separate shut-off valve, close the valve, open the spigots to drain the lines and leave them open until spring. If your faucets have a back-flow prevention device, make sure to disconnect it so that the water drains from the line. If you do not have a separate shut-off for your outdoor water faucet, use pipe insulation to protect against frozen pipes. Wrap insulation around the faucet and protect it with an insulated faucet cover. If you need to winterize an outdoor faucet, wrap the pipe in outdoor-use heat cable, wrap pipe insulation around it and cover this with a slip-on faucet protector. Your hardware or plumbing supply store should be able to provide these materials.
Winterize irrigation pipes
To winterize irrigation pipes in the ground, remove the water from your sprinkler system Next, shut off the water supply to the system. Open all of the manual drain valves. If your sprinkler system has an automatic draining system, turning off the main water supply should open the drain lines automatically.
Once you remove the water from the lines, open the drain cap on the stop-and-waste valve or the boiler drain valve to clear any remaining water. Make sure you open the test cocks on the back-flow device, and if your system has check valves, pull the sprinkler head from the ground to drain the water from the body of the sprinkler. If your irrigation system requires a “blowout” method for winterization, contact an irrigation specialist, as you could easily damage your lines and sprinkler heads.