How to Prevent Common Plumbing Problems in Cold Weather
Colorado’s fairytale winters are beautiful enough to inspire song lyrics and movie posters. Unfortunately, the cold weather causes another less pleasant side effect—plumbing problems. If you’re new to Fort Collins or want to brush up on preventing winter plumbing issues, simply follow this guide.
Prevent Frozen Pipes
Frozen pipes are common in Colorado, both inside and outside the house. If not thawed quickly, frozen pipes can burst, allowing water to pour into your home. Follow these steps to prevent frozen and burst pipes this winter:
- Set the thermostat to 55 degrees or higher at all times, even when you’re away.
- Open cabinet doors overnight so heat can reach the pipes below the sink.
- Allow faucets to drip on bitterly cold nights.
- Seal and insulate any unconditioned parts of your home where pipes are present, including the garage, basement, and crawlspace.
- Insulate hose bibs and exterior pipes, and apply heat tape to those most vulnerable to freezing.
- Consider draining your plumbing system if you’re leaving town for a while.
- Disconnect, drain, and store garden hoses in the shed or garage over the winter.
- Blow out your automatic sprinkler system before the first freeze.
Avoid Common Kitchen Plumbing Problems
You may eat at home more when it’s cold outside. Holiday gatherings also put added strain on your kitchen sink. Prevent inconvenient clogs and garbage disposal jams with these tips:
- Run water while grinding food and for a few seconds afterward to help food scraps flow down the drain.
- Keep the disposal clean with a handful of ice cubes and a few squirts of dish soap. Run cold water at full blast and turn on the garbage disposal to clear gunk from the unit.
- Remove nasty odors by grinding up lemon or orange peels in the garbage disposal.
- Never dispose of anything besides food down the kitchen sink. Even then, keep cooking grease, fruit pits, animal bones, coffee grounds, and stringy or starchy foods out of the drain.
- Feed scraps into the drain a little at a time. Also, cut any large items into smaller pieces the unit can handle.
- Know how to reset your garbage disposal. First, press the reset button on the bottom of the unit and try running it again. If the impellers are still jammed, insert a hex wrench into the corresponding hole and twist it left and right to get things moving.
- Don’t use bleach or drain cleaners with garbage disposals. Instead, stick with natural methods like a good old-fashioned sink plunger.
Keep Your Water Heater Going Strong
Your water heater works harder in the winter than any other time of year, increasing the need for repairs and replacements. The following tips can help prepare your water heater for winter:
- Test the temperature pressure relief (TPR) valve to ensure it works correctly.
- Drain a few gallons of water to remove sediment from the bottom of the tank.
- Insulate exposed pipes to reduce heat loss on the way to the tap.
- Cover your water heater with an insulating jacket to reduce standby heat loss.
- Set the temperature to 120 degrees instead of 140 degrees to save up to 10 percent on operating costs and prevent scalding at the tap.
Prepare Your Sump Pump for Winter
If you have a sump pump, you rely on this device to remove rising groundwater before it floods your basement. With fast-melting snow likely to cause problems this winter, make sure your sump pump is ready. Here’s how:
- Clean debris from the sump pit and the surrounding area to prevent clogging the intake and discharge lines.
- Test your sump pump every week or two during the winter. Do this by pouring water into the pit and waiting to see if the pump activates. If not, call a plumber to request a repair.
- Install a battery backup or even a second sump pump for peace of mind in case the first unit fails or the power goes out.
- Keep your basement above freezing, even if it’s unfinished and unoccupied, to keep the sump pump working properly.
- Improve the drainage on your property to reduce the strain on your sump pump. This includes cleaning the gutters, extending the downspouts at least six feet from the foundation, and ensuring the ground slopes away from your house.
- Check your foundation for cracks or other areas where water could leak inside. Patch gaps and cracks with caulk or expanding spray foam. Professional basement waterproofing may be necessary in some cases.
Ward Off Winter Septic System Problems
If you have a septic tank, freezing temperatures could cause draining problems or backups. Here’s how to prevent the top winter plumbing problems related to septic tanks:
- Check for poor soil coverage where drain lines or the sides of the septic tank are visible. Cover these exposed areas with new soil to prevent freezing.
- Add a layer of straw above the septic tank to provide extra insulation.
- Keep up with septic tank pumping. Remember, this service is required every three to five years. Schedule pumping before winter to prevent the freezing and expansion that can break a nearly full tank.
- Watch your water usage. Instruct your family to take shorter showers, stagger laundry and dishwasher loads, and scrape food into the trash rather than down the kitchen sink.
- Avoid parking or driving over your septic tank to prevent compacting the soil and causing drain field problems.
Schedule Plumbing Services Today
No matter your plumbing needs this winter, Allen Service has you covered. With over six decades of plumbing experience, we can handle everything from burst pipes to broken sump pumps to leaky water heaters. Our plumbers are fully licensed and insured for your peace of mind. Call us at 970-484-4841 or contact us online to schedule plumbing services in Fort Collins today.