Winterizing your pipes

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register

Every year, house fires result from people thawing their frozen pipes with a handheld torch. Fire departments across the nation warn about the dangers of thawing pipes with open flames.

Being prepared by winterizing your pipes ahead of time can prevent a lot of undue work and costly repairs. Being in West Texas usually means that we don't have more than a few days of freezing weather every year. When we do have freezes, temperatures don't get down below 20 degrees the majority of the time.

WikiHow has tips for how to properly winterize your pipes.

The coldest day in February last year was 21 degrees. The warmest day was 79 degrees. Love that Texas weather! Overall there were eight days at, or below, the freezing mark. Many people don't consider winterizing their pipes until the day of, or the day before, a hard freeze is coming. It's much easier to winterize your pipes ahead of time in 60-degree weather, rather than waiting and having to do it in 20-degree weather.

WikiHow suggests using a hair dryer to thaw frozen pipes.

Here are some tips from that you can use to winterize your pipes ahead of time and help prevent a lot of work and a lot of frustration.

How to Prepare Your Pipes for Winter

Winterizing plumbing pipes is a way to prepare your home for freezing temperatures and avoid malfunctioning or bursts pipes. The process prepares your plumbing system for winter’s chill and can save you a huge hassle and lots of cash by avoiding piping repairs or replacement. Use our checklist to winterize your plumbing.

Insulate pipes

Pipes in unheated areas like a crawl space, garage, or attic are susceptible to freezing temperatures. Use heat cable along the pipes and cover with pipe insulation. The insulation by itself isn’t designed to withstand long-term cold temperatures and can actually prevent warm air from reaching the pipes when not partnered with heat cable.

Shut off outdoor faucets

Open your outdoor faucets to allow excess water to run out, then turn off the faucet at the shutoff valve. If you don’t first allow the bleeder cap to drain, the pipe can still freeze and crack.

Open cabinet doors

During a stretch of particularly cold weather, you can open your kitchen or bathroom under-sink cabinets to allow warm air to circulate near the pipes. Behind closed doors, pipes are vulnerable because the warm air in your home can’t reach them.

Check furnace or HVAC unit

If your HVAC unit or furnace goes out during the dead of winter, your pipes will suffer through the freezing temperatures until a repair can be made. Ensure your heating system is working properly before winter arrives.

Run water

Allow a trickle of water to run through the faucet to avoid freezing pipes. The pressure relief from a slow drip can prevent frozen pipes from cracking. While you may see a minor bump in your water bill, it’s much better than footing the cost for pipe replacement.

Inspect the exterior

Do a walk-around of your home looking for visible cracks that need to be sealed. Cold air will seep through the cracks, causing your pipes to freeze. Use spray foam or caulking to fill the gaps and protect your pipes.

Protecting your pipes from winter’s harsh temperatures doesn’t require a lot of time or strenuous work. Follow these basic steps to keep your water flowing and pipes intact through the coldest months of the year.

If you do end up with some frozen water lines, don't go get the torch from the garage and start trying to thaw the pipes out.  Most websites suggest using a blow dryer to thaw your pipes, slowly moving it back and forth over the pipe.

In many rural areas where the farms use water wells, the farmers will place heat lamps in their well house to keep the pump, filters and pipes from freezing up. The longer the freeze, the bigger the problem if you haven't winterized your pipes or well house.

As they say, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Don't forget those pets! If you're cold, your dogs and cats are cold! Take measures to ensure that those furry friends can stay warm as well.