The best time to winterize your home is early fall, before the rain and cold make it an unpleasant task. Spending a relatively small amount of time and money now can save time, money and inconvenience later. Preparing your water pipes for freezing weather will ensure that they don’t burst, causing costly water damage.
Although outdoor pipes are more likely to freeze, the entire plumbing system is connected. Frozen water increases pressure throughout the system, and a frozen outdoor pipe can result in an interior pipe bursting. That’s why outside garden hoses should be drained and disconnected. If the hose will be in use during the winter, an inexpensive faucet insulator should be installed. Heated hoses are also an option. When they are plugged in, embedded wires heat the hose. In warmer weather, they shut of automatically to prevent overheating and save electricity.
There are two types of heat tape available for winterizing both exterior and interior pipes. One is self-regulating, and varies the heat output according to changes in the surrounding temperature. The other is non-regulating and is controlled by a thermostat. They can be purchased by the roll or by the foot at your local hardware store, and can be cut to any length for a perfect fit. Both require a connection kit with an outlet and an end plug.
Rather than replacing insulation, heat tape provides another protective layer. Even taped pipes should be insulated. Foam pipe covers are the easiest and least expensive pipe insulation option. Another option is fiberglass, which can be bulky and requires wearing protection to prevent any fibers from penetrating the skin, eyes or lungs.
For extremely frigid temperatures, a special nontoxic antifreeze containing propylene glycol is available at your local plumbing store. It’s safe for drinking water systems and only costs a few dollars per gallon. It’s an option worth considering because it prevents freezing down to 50-below at full strength.
If you're ready to get out there and gather supplies to protect your pipes, check out Rollier's Hardware. Once you’ve winterized your home, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the great indoors with a cup of hot cocoa.