‘Winter is coming’ – emphasized the series called Game of Thrones. Although the Middle Ages setting outlined a different kind of threat with the cold season, it is not a risk-free period in real life. The cold weather can cause serious damage to any water network that is not protected against frost. Even to plumbing within walls, or water meters that are in unheated rooms, basements, or shafts and are not adequately protected. Therefore, as winter approaches, it is time to take the necessary precautions to protect the plumbing system from freezing.
In permanently inhabited homes, there is less chance of damage due to frost. Therefore, houses, where residents are only temporarily present, are more at risk. For example, this could be a weekend house or a holiday home, where the doors are closed in the fall and not opened until the spring. Unused plumbing can freeze easily, while the ice, due to its nature to increase in size, can cause damage to the water pipes, the usage measurement system, or even the toilets.
Certain plumbing assets need to be protected against frost and undrained water turning into ice. It only needs a small crack in the system, a minor, hard-to-notice leak, and Spring will bring costly surprises to the owners. Let’s see a few examples before moving onto tips about how to avoid them.
● Garden tap: Exterior located plumbing is subject to freeze even before wintertime, as they are not heated by the surrounding environment. A garden tap or an undrained hose is exposed to the biggest risk. What happens to them, when they are left out from winter preparations? As soon as the nighttime temperature gets below the freezing point, water begins to change its state, and with it, consistency to slowly become ice. The ice state of water comes with an increased volume, which leads the garden hose to be stretched to its limits or even literally to explode.
● External water meters: These types of equipment are often located in shafts below the ground, however, this means little to none extra protection compared to the garden hoses filled with undrained water.
● Water pipes in unheated rooms: As unprotected walls tend to transfer cold quickly, plumbing integrated within the walls of an unheated room is subject to the freeze.
How to prepare plumbing for the winter?
Recommendations for the protection of water measuring shafts against frost:
● Check for water in the shaft several times during the winter.
● Replace the missing or damaged manhole cover.
● Check the fit and proper closing of the cover that closes the drain hole of the water meter shaft. It should close without gaps, to avoid cold air to flow into the hole.
● Keep the plastic cover of the water meter closed.
● Based on one of the most common methods of protection: cover the top of the water meter shaft with foil, then cover it with some material suitable for thermal insulation (styrofoam, polyphonic, reed board, or even cut grass). Make sure that this thermal insulation can be removed without damage when reading the water meter and then can also be quickly replaced. The protection of water metering shafts as above is particularly important where there is no regular water consumption.
● Snow can also provide some protection, so it is advisable to shovel snow from the shaft only before reading the water meter.
● It is also recommended to use on the inner surface of the manhole cover and the shaft with thermal insulation material. It is important to choose a material that does not lose its insulating properties when exposed to moisture. The material suitable for the internal insulation of the water meter shaft is for example the styrofoam.
● If the water meter or the plumbing is less than one meter above ground level, it is a wise precaution to insulate those as well. A paper box can be used for this, which must be placed face down on the measuring device so that it keeps all the heat flowing upwards from the ground. It is also suitable to cover them with a plastic film folded in several layers so the dial of the water meter remains free.
Garden tap and hose:
● If possible, disconnect the tap-mounted hose, but the most important is to make sure that it is drained and does not contain any water.
● Close the tap completely: If it is not closed properly, it may leak through the drain hole. To check this, eliminate all other water consumption and make sure the numbers on your water meter are not increasing. After closing the tap, open the drain valve to allow water to be drained from the pipes and allow air to replace it. You will hear a distinctive sound during the process. If you do not hear this sound, it may be a malfunction, in which case be sure to seek professional help.
Update Uour House’s Tech
There are innovative ways within your reach that you can use to have more control over what happens in your properties, even when you are not present.
As a first, install a thermometer that measures in-house temperature correctly. If you choose an integrated smart home system, you will be able to control heating when the air indoors becomes too cold. You can install a separate thermometer near the water meter or in the unheated basement to always have information about what to expect. The water meter can also be digitalized, so you do not even need to be present to see if its metrics show usage when nobody is home, which is a clear signal of unhealthy plumbing.
If you are expecting extreme colds in the upcoming season, you can also install heating wires, that help to keep your plumbing above the freezing point when needed. If you combine the two systems, you will have maximum control and security during wintertime.
Even though you have multiple ways to protect and take care of your water network and plumbing, there are situations for which an expert is needed. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you would like to consult about a certain plumbing issue, or if you have a leakage that needs to be taken care of. You can rest assured that Graydon Faulstick Plumbing will have your back.
Contact us at 570-992-0447 or 610-381-4171 for all of your plumbing questions and needs, today!