How to Winterize Your Outdoor Pipes

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A cold winter is the mortal enemy of your plumbing. Water is one of the few substances that actually expands as it freezes. That means that water in your pipes will expand when it freezes and seek out the path of least resistance. Far too often, that means that the ice will actually burst through the pipes. When the water thaws, you have a gushing burst pipe. If you’re fortunate, the water will expand through the faucet, and you’ll just have damaged faucet components.

The quick solution is to allow the water to drip all night; moving water, even if it’s moving slowly, will not freeze as readily. However, dripping your pipes for an entire winter is simply not practical. That’s why homeowners with exposed pipes need to winterize their pipes. However, many homeowners forget their outdoor pipes. Outdoor pipes can be garden faucets, outdoor showers, sprinklers, pools, and ponds.

Winterizing Garden Faucets

Oftentimes, the faucet fixture for your garden hose is mostly contained inside the house or the crawlspace. The simplest solution here is to shut off the water to that pipe. Turn on the fixture to allow the last bits of water to drain out. Turn the water back on when the temperature is consistently above freezing.

Outdoor Showers

If you have other outdoor fixtures such as outdoor showers or built-in sprinkler systems, there can be water trapped in the pipes. Showers and sinks often have drain systems that hold onto water to trap gases; the same is true of some septic systems. In those systems, you can pour a little bit of antifreeze in the drain. The antifreeze lowers the freezing point of the water to far below what most people experience during the winter.

Outdoor Pools and Ponds

Since water expands when it freezes, it can actually crack your pool or pond in the same way that it cracks your pipes. The first step is to lower the water level of the pool or pond; lowering the water level gives the water room to expand. Cover the pool and detach the pump as well. If water is trapped in the pump, it can freeze and damage your pump.

Typically, a pool or pond pipe is buried about four feet in the ground. Unless you live somewhere that the ground will freeze that deep, the pipes will probably be insulated by the ground itself.

Sprinklers and Irrigation Systems

The first step is to shut off the water to the irrigation system. Next, remove the timer from your sprinkler or irrigation system. The timer can be susceptible to power surges during the winter. Then blow the water out of the lines with an air compressor. Finally, remove the valves and backflow preventer. Any bit of water kept in these delicate parts can cause damage.

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