Winter is coming. We are about to see the third consecutive La Niña winter. For the Pacific Northwest, that means a winter that is both wetter and colder than average and everyone should be getting ready. If you recall the last two winters, you know that this winter is likely to be harsh by local standards and bitingly cold. This isn’t just about bundling up and preparing for high heating bills, it’s also about keeping your home safe from extremely low temperatures and harsh weather conditions.

This is a good time to get your roof, siding, insulation, and foundation checked on. You’ll want to winterize your car and stock up on supplies in case of closed roads and snow-ins. But most of all, you need to prepare your plumbing. The Pacific Northwest is no stranger to winters, but the ocean tends to provide a more mild climate which means your plumbing might not yet have end-to-end plumbing insulation. Now is a very important time to prepare your plumbing for the bad winter to come before a pipe bursts.

Fortunately, you don’t have to guess at the right steps. We’re here to share a quick guide to plumbing winterization for every Pacific Northwesterner getting ready for another La Niña winter.

1) Insulate Pipes You Can Reach With Foam Tubing

First, insulate every length of pipe you can reach. Plumbing insulation is foam tubing with a slit down the side so you can easily fit cut sections of tube around each section of pipe. Any pipes under the sink and in utility areas that can be reached should be insulated.

In a pinch, you can use foam pool noodles which are often made in the same factories and of the same materials as pipe insulation tubes.

2) Install Heat Wire Or Foam Insulation On Basement Pipes

Heat wire is a single thread of wire that is attached along the length of pipes hidden in utility spaces. A tiny electrical current runs through the wire, keeping the pipes just warm enough to prevent the water from freezing, swelling, and bursting during extreme cold.

Have a technician install heat wire or a length of foam installation onto pipes in your basement, crawl spaces, and other hard-to-reach utility areas.

3) Drain And Cover All Outdoor Taps And Water Lines

Make sure there is no water in your outdoor water fixtures, taps, and sprinklers, and protect these outdoor taps from cold. Drain and detach your sprinklers and garden hoses, and put them away for the winter. Then shut off and drain the outdoor water taps and place a foam cover over each to prevent outdoor cold from seeping into your indoor plumbing through these pipes.

4) Seal Your Home’s Doors, Windows, And Insulation Gaps

Keeping your home’ HVAC-efficient is also a good way to protect your pipes which rely on heat from the house to stay warm. You can lower your power bill and reduce the risk of frozen pipes by sealing up and insulating your home. Re-caulk the windows, add new weatherstripping to the doors, and seal up any cracks in the house that let drafts through. Consider sealing up your crawl space and other drafty areas.

5) Care For Your Drains

Make sure your drains are in good condition, as freezing drains can cause serious clogs when frozen debris inside the pipes cannot break up. Flushing your drains with hot water and vinegar or calling for drain care if you’ve had regular clogs can prevent a disastrous clog in the dead of winter when you most want to simply cozy up indoors.

6) Flush And Descale Your Water Heater

Hot water is a must-have during the winter and a water heater with too much built-up scale (from hard water) at the bottom can provide weakened heating capabilities. For toasty warm water all winter, and the ability to use warm water to protect your pipes, now is a good time to flush and descale your water heater.

7) Keep The Heat On

Don’t turn the heat off. Keep your heat at a minimum of about 40 degrees, even if you leave home all day or travel to visit relatives. This will keep the indoor pipes at an above-freezing temperature.

8) If Traveling, Drain Your Pipes

If you must travel and want to turn off your heater, you will need to drain the household pipes so that there isn’t enough water to freeze, swell, and burst while you’re gone. To do this, shut off your water main, then run every tap and flush every toilet until the water is fully gone. 

9) When It Freezes, Open Cabinets And Drip Faucets

If you’re home during a freeze, take steps to minimize the risk that your pipes will freeze while water is still being used inside them. Open sink cabinets so that heat from the house can more easily reach these pipes, and then spread that heat to pipes inside the walls. You should also set each faucet to a slow drip. Even this tiny movement of water can prevent pipes from freezing.

Prevent Winter Plumbing Disasters With Clog Pro

Here at Clog Pro, we know that winter can bring a number of seasonal plumbing problems, and this winter is going to be another harsh one. If you need help preparing your home for winter or run into a winter plumbing emergency, we are here to help. Contact us today if you need a plumber in Vancouver, WA or Portland OR.