Guide: Winter Plumbing Emergencies And Winterizing Tips For Your Home

While emergency plumbing situations can occur at any time of year, they are more likely to occur during the winter months. Cold weather and increased hot water demand amidst large holiday gatherings tend to put a strain on our plumbing systems. Common winter plumbing emergencies we tend to see this time of year include frozen or busted pipes, lack of hot water/heat, and clogged drains. To avoid the headache of navigating these common emergencies this season, we’ve pulled together this guide to winter plumbing emergencies and winterizing tips for your home.

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Common Emergency 1: Frozen or Busted Pipes

When cold temperatures cause pipes to freeze, the freeze-thaw cycle can loosen connections or cause pipes to break entirely. Busted pipes are often the result of pipes getting so cold that the water inside them freezes. As a result, the pipe expands and bursts the pipe open.

Winterizing Tips

Pipe Insulation

If any of your pipes are housed in non-heated areas, such as a basement or a garage, it is crucial to ensure these pipes are insulated. This protection will help keep your pipes from freezing.

Disconnect Outdoor Faucets

Water inside outdoor faucets are often the first to freeze and expand if they are left connected during colder temperatures. To help prevent this, simply disconnect your water hoses, drain them of any remaining water, and store the hoses in a dry area.

Check for Outdoor Faucet Leaks

After you disconnect any outdoor faucets, check for any leaks or drips that may need to be fixed. A leaking faucet can lead to water damage and severe plumbing issues during a freeze. Once your outdoor faucets are fully fixed, cover and insulate the faucets to avoid future issues.

Find the Water Shut-off Valve

Do you know where your main shut-off valve is? If a frozen pipe does burst, the first course of action is to prevent further damage by shutting off the water to your home. Ensure that you and each person who lives in the home knows where the main shut-off valve is and how to turn it off.

Common Emergency 2: Lack of Hot Water and Heat

The second most common winter plumbing emergency we see is a lack of hot water and/or heat within the home caused by malfunctioning water heaters and boilers.

With cooler temperatures, the water entering your home becomes colder. This means that your water heater needs to work harder than usual. This is also the time of year when we Marylanders want to pump more hot water into our sinks, tubs, and showers to stay warm. With this increased activity, underlying issues can emerge. Faulty parts, sediment build up, or a bad winter storm can wreak havoc on your home’s water heater.

Boilers are like the motor of your home. They not only protect your family from the elements, they are needed to keep everything within your house at a temperature that it can function properly. But like anything, boilers can fail at the most inopportune moments due to faulty parts, pumps, or electrical components causing needed boiler repair.

Winterizing Tips

Water Heater Inspection

If you have a gas water heater, it’s important to keep an eye on the pilot, thermocouple, and pilot control valve. In electric water heaters, it’s important to inspect the thermostat and heating elements. A licensed warrior plumber will be able to assess these parts for faults and ensure they are working properly.

Sediment and other minerals also tend to build up on the bottom of water heaters. This causes your water heater to utilize more energy and lose efficiency over time. Your home’s water heater should be flushed out regularly to avoid build up and prevent damage.

Boiler Service

Just like your vehicle, boilers should be serviced on an annual basis to ensure they are working at optimum efficiency and properly heating your home.

Common Emergency 3: Clogged Drains

The third most common winter plumbing emergency we see is clogged drains. The winter season often consists of large holiday get-togethers and delicious foods. As a result, your drain lines may clog from time to time during the season.

Winterizing Tips

To prevent clogs, keep an eye out for oily or fatty foods and be careful of any stringy foods falling into the sink. You also want to be careful not to flush certain items, such as “flushable wipes” down the toilet, and follow these simple tips to avoid needing a garbage disposal repair.

We can be prepared if a clog does happen. We recommend always keeping a plunger in your kitchen and bathroom. In case of drains, you can use the plunger to dislodge the clog. Another handy tool is a plumbing auger or drain snake. This is an inexpensive tool that can be found at any local hardwood store. It helps you to dislodge a clog, snag it, and bring it out of the drain. If you have littles like we do, this is especially helpful to recover legos that accidentally made their way down the drain or their favorite action figure that just wanted to save the day. If you can see the object that is causing the clog but don’t have this tool, you can try to create a home-made auger by bending a hanger. Be careful though not to scratch your toilet or sink with the metal wire of the hanger.

In Need of a Baltimore Plumber? Call Warrior Plumbing & Heating

We understand that winter plumbing emergencies may still happen, despite the very best attempts at prevention. If you need us, we’re here to help – 24/7! Simply fill out our contact us form or call us at 443-967-3736.