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Frozen Pipes & Winter Plumbing Problems To Avoid

From sledding in Patterson Park to watching snow softly land across the city from the Top of the World Observation Level, there’s a lot to love about winter in Baltimore. And while it’s pretty to see everything draped in white, it’s not always rosy being a homeowner in winter (except your cheeks, those are always rosy). With snow, ice, and frigid temps wreaking havoc on pipes and drains, plumbing systems are prone to problems in the winter. Here are a few common plumbing concerns homeowners have in the winter and some proactive tips for preventing them from happening.

Frozen Pipes

Jack Frost nipping at your nose? That’s charming. Jack Frost nipping at your pipes? That’s trouble. Frozen pipes are one of the most common winter-related plumbing issues we see, and they can be a real problem. When the temperature dips below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, poorly insulated pipes are likely to freeze. Frozen water within the pipe expands, eventually causing the pipe to crack or burst—which can result in extensive water damage to your home.

As cold weather approaches, we suggest making a few small adjustments in your home to reduce the chances of pipes freezing. First, leaving the faucets on—even if it’s just a tiny drip—can alleviate pressure and keep water flowing. Additionally, opening the cabinet doors under your sinks can allow your home’s heat to flow more directly into the area. And if you want to take things a step further, you can also insulate any exposed pipes—like those found in your home’s crawl space or attic—by wrapping them with heat tape.

Broken Water Heaters

There are few things more satisfying than a warm shower on a winter morning—and few things more irritating than discovering your water heater is not working. The reason why this tends to happen in winter is simple: Your water heater is working overtime. Think about how much additional hot water you use in the winter, plus the fact that the water being fed into the heater is already significantly colder than in non-winter months.

The simplest and most cost-effective way to prevent water heater malfunction during winter is by purchasing a water heater blanket. These durable and inexpensive devices composed of fiberglass and insulation wrap the water heater to eliminate energy loss. As part of a regular maintenance program, you should also check the condition of the anode rod before the start of winter and drain and flush the tank to rid it of any mineral sediment. It’s also not a bad idea to increase your water heater’s temperature, even if it’s just 5 to 10 degrees, to ensure it is equipped to pump out the hot water you need in winter.

Sump Pump Clogging

You didn’t think we’d forget about sump pumps, did you? Those submersible devices in your basement certainly aren’t immune from winter-related hiccups. Because of the increase in snow and ice, sump pumps can easily become clogged or backed up. And a sump pump that’s not operating properly is bad news if your basement starts flooding from melted snow.

Like hot water heaters, keeping your sump pump in good working order requires a commitment to preventive year-round maintenance. Several times a year (including before winter), you should clean out the sump pit and remove any debris that could cause a clog at the worst possible time. Be sure to confirm that the sump pump’s intake and discharge line are free of blockages—and you might consider insulating those lines to protect them against freezing. Lastly, installing effective gutters and drainage systems that take water away from your house is always helpful in reducing your sump pump’s workload.

If you’ve been diligent about winterizing your plumbing systems and you still experience one of these problems (or any others), there’s no reason to worry. That’s because you can always call the professionals at Prime Plumbing for help. Save time, call Prime!


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