Ready or not, winter will be here in just a few short weeks. Before things start to freeze, you have to tackle the must-do plumbing tasks. We have compiled a short list of the top plumbing maintenance tips for the fall to make your life just a little bit easier.
1. Store Hoses Somewhere Warm and Dry
Go around your house and gather up all of your outside hoses. Now is the perfect time to drain them and store them away. You won’t need to water plants for the next several months.
Make sure to get all of the water you can out of the hoses, then seal it end-to-end to make sure no critters crawl inside and make their home in your hose. Roll them up neatly and store them away from the harsh winter weather. Cold snaps can cause rubber hoses to become brittle and weak.
2. Prepare the Spigots
Shut off all of your outside spigots and get the insulation out. If you have any attached to your home, you can install a hard faucet cover to protect them from freezing weather. You would be surprised how big of a difference a little insulation can make.
If you have any freestanding hydrants around your yard, adding a layer of foam insulation can help keep them from getting damaged in the freezing weather. Newer variants will automatically drain after being shut off.
However, if you need to run the faucet over the winter months, you may want to add a heating element to keep the pipes from freezing during use.
3. Add Pipe Insulation Where it’s Needed
Inside or outside, adding a layer of foam insulation will help give you that extra layer of protection. Nobody wants to deal with a busted pipe in the middle of winter.
For short stretches, you can get by with just slipping the insulation over the exposed pipe. For a more permanent solution, consider securing it with zip ties to keep it from falling off in inclement weather.
If you want a less permanent solution, Velcro strips are a perfect way to secure the insulation to the exposed pipe. Of course, there is always the handiest of tools: Duct Tape.
4. Complete any Water Heater Maintenance
In the cold of winter, warm water is a real blessing. Before winter hits, you can help ensure a constant flow of warm water by completing basic maintenance. The requirements vary depending on your water heater.
If you have a tankless water heater, you can clean the system with a water/vinegar mixture. Simply turn off the power and incoming supply lines, remove the purge caps and attach hoses according to manufacturer’s specifications. Now you can flush the tank with at least two and a half gallons of undiluted white vinegar. This may take some time, but you will be better off than using harsh chemicals.
There are a few more steps if you have a traditional water heater. First off, you can clean any sediment out of a hot water tank by completely draining the tank of water.
Shut off the water supply and the power and drain the tank into a bucket or out a hose. Once it is completely empty, you can rinse the tank by briefly turning on the water supply valve.
You can also test the temperature pressure release valve by shutting off the power and the water to the tank. Place a catch bucket under it and open the valve for a moment. When you close it back, the water should stop flowing. If it keeps flowing or trickling, it’s time to replace the valve.
If everything looks good, you can finish the job by insulating the water heater itself with an insulating blanket. Don’t forget to insulate the pipes coming out of the water heater too. You can save on energy this winter with some simple maintenance and installation steps. Plus, keeping your water heater maintained will extend the life of this appliance.
5. Take Time to Fix Leaks
Go around your home and look for any leaks from faucets, handles and pipes. Most of the time, these little leaks can be fixed by simply adjusting the fittings. This is where having a complete plumbers tool set comes in handy.
If possible, shut off the water to the leak. This may mean shutting off water to the home for a little bit. We recommend waiting until everyone is done with their morning showers to do this part.
Undo the fitting to reveal the threads. Take some silicone thread tape and apply to the threads. Reattach the fitting and move on to the next one.
For more serious leaks, you can use plumbers’ putty as a temporary stopgap until you can complete a proper repair. Temporary measures are just that, temporary, and should not be relied upon for long-term fixes.