Discover how to protect your home’s plumbing system, including your tankless water heater, from Old Man Winter
Winter is coming. If you live in the top third of the country, it means changing your entire lifestyle: from the way you dress, to the way you drive, to—yes—the way you maintain your home plumbing system.
The main danger your plumbing system faces during the winter is water freezing inside your pipes. This can cause, at the very least, nothing to come out of the tap; at worst, a pipe burst from the pressure of the ice.
Thankfully, it’s not too hard to take precautions to prevent this from happening.
Keep Your House Warm
The simplest way to keep your indoor pipes from freezing is to keep the house warm, even when you’re not home. Always set the temperature to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit; set it higher if you live in a particularly cold region. Keep your windows, doors and garage closed, especially if you have nearby piping or plumbing appliances.
At the same time, check your home for any cracks in the floors, walls or ceilings that might let in cold air. If found, caulk them shut.
Insulate Your Pipes
Protect the pipes themselves by wrapping them in insulation sleeves, slip-on foam or heat tape. Make sure they are completely insulated without any gaps.
An old trick to prevent pipe freezing is to let a faucet drip at roughly 0.1 to 0.2 gallons per minute. This keeps water moving through the pipes and minimizes the chance of a freeze. If you have pipes behind a service door in the basement, keep it open so that they are exposed to the room air.
Protect your water heater
If you have a traditional storage tank water heater without freeze-prevention technology, be sure to insulate it. For tankless water heaters, this shouldn’t be necessary, as long as they are plugged into a power source. Noritz units have built-in electric heaters that provide freeze protection.
For added protection, consider installing a draft blocker at the heater’s exhaust termination. It will stay closed unless exhaust pushes it open, thereby preventing cold winds from blowing down the flue and potentially freezing the heat exchanger.
If you happen to be installing a new heater, make sure the vent runs are longer than five feet for wind protection. Also make sure the venting is above the snow line to prevent the white stuff from clogging the exhaust.
Finally, check the venting for any critters trying to make their nests for the winter. Blockages can cause exhaust to back up into your home.
Winterize your summer home
If you have a summer home or some other residence that will be vacant during the winter, you’ll need to take a few extra steps to protect its plumbing system.
Close the water supply valve and open all drain lines. Drain any appliance that uses water. This includes toilets, water heaters (both storage tank and tankless types), dishwashers, etc. Use an air compressor to blow excess water out of your plumbing lines, and pour plumbing antifreeze into your drain traps. You don’t want to take the chance of water freezing anywhere in your plumbing system.
Call a professional to perform these tasks if you do not feel comfortable doing them yourself.
Don’t forget your hose
Whether you’re winterizing a summer home or simply preparing your current residence for the winter, remember to disconnect your garden hose and drain the water from the external faucet. A garden hose can crack during the winter if it’s left out.
The same applies to sprinkler systems. In this case, the best advice is to call a professional to blow out water in the underground lines.
Once you’ve followed the above tips, pour yourself a nice cup of hot cocoa and enjoy the winter, knowing that your home plumbing system is protected!
For more information on protecting your home plumbing from winter, check out these websites: