Winter's Coming. (Brace yourself)

Busted pipeThere’s nothing quite like coming home to find an impromptu glacier and no running water in your house… that is nothing quite as irritating!

Busted pipes and plumbing fixtures will not only cost you the replacement parts, they can cost you serious downtime and significant damage to your home.

Here is how and why frozen water will break your stuff:

  1. A gallon of water expands to about 110% it’s original volume when it freezes.
  2.  Ice blockage becomes more likely when outside temperatures drop below freezing.
  3. A cold wind reaching pipes quickly removes heat and increases chances of ice formation.
  4. Water pressure that builds between an ice blockage and a closed valve can burst the pipe.

 

Everyone seems to be predicting a colder than normal winter for our service areas, so well owners need to be sure everything is “buttoned up” before cold nights start to settle in.  Here are some steps you can take.

 

 

If you will not be using your well over winter…

  • Shut the control system down
  • drain the lines and open all valves.  Be sure you have an opening at the lowest point in the system!
  • Fill any toilets on the system with plumber’s antifreeze. Always use non-toxic antifreeze rated for plumbing systems!

 

If you will be using your well over winter…

 

  • Make sure any plumbing that is NOT in a conditioned space has a working heat tape on it.  Some folks use a light bulb to heat their well houses.  This works until there is an electrical problem and the well house burns down (we’ve seen it more than once).  Always use a heat tape with a fuse to prevent any unexpected electrical fires!
  • You may want to take an extra step and cover your pipes with an insulating wrap.  If you do so, be sure to add extra protection on your filter and pressure tank, as well as any PRV’s or switches.  Heat tape will usually produce enough radiant heat inside your well house or fake rock to keep these components from freezing, but if you cover it, all that heat will stay between the insulation and the pipe, so they will need the extra protection.
  • Make sure you have a good air seal at the base of your well house lid or where your fake rock meets the ground.  Bury the lip of your fake rock with soil or mulch to prevent air exchange.
  • Make sure any outdoor spigots you are using are frost free lawn hydrants, or are in underground enclosures such as irrigation boxes so they are protected from freezing.
  • Use your water.  When the water comes out of your well it is cold (about 58 degrees), but it is still well above freezing.  Keeping it moving will help to prevent a freeze inside your pipes.  Maybe run a sink inside your house overnight when the weatherman is predicting an exceptionally hard freeze.

Winter doesn’t have to mean trouble for your water system.  These steps will help protect your system from the harsh weather and keep you in fresh water.  If you do have a problem, though- remember: we are on call 24-7 to get you out of that tough spot!

 

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About the Author

Rob Miller

Rob's background in Environmental Horticulture and the green industry, as well as time working as a Legislative Aide and Private Property Rights Advocate at the Georgia General Assembly, informs his unique perspective on metro Atlanta water issues, as well as water and its management as a global issue.