Because water consumption normally increases for most people during the warmer months, winter is not the season that one normally thinks of when considering ideas for water conservation.
Pools have been drained, garden hoses have been coiled up and stowed away, and lawn irrigation systems have been blown out and shut down for the season. As the days get shorter and temperatures continue to drop, more of our activities take place indoors. The daily demand on the town’s water supply during the colder winter months is roughly one-third of that during the peak summer months, reflective of a similar decrease in the overall population. However, just because the demand on the system is substantially reduced, there is never a good time to waste this precious resource.
Good conservation habits should always be a year-round endeavor. While doing the little things like fixing drips, not running water unnecessarily, and using flow reducing showerheads can all add up, avoiding winter freeze ups can not only save substantial amounts of water but can also save thousands in home repairs.
The extreme low temperatures we experienced here the first weekend of last February resulted in many burst pipes around town, keeping the local plumbers very busy in the initial aftermath of the cold snap. Some were relatively quick fixes, while others proved very costly for the homeowners involved. As winter continues to settle in, please keep in mind these suggestions for avoiding cold-related damage to the water pipes of your homes and local businesses.
Before freezing temperatures start, protect your pipes by following these recommendations:
Hoses used outdoors need to be drained and stored for the winter. Drain any water left in the hose bib. Turn off the hose bib from the inside, if you have that option.
Following manufacturer’s directions, drain water from swimming pool supply lines as well as irrigation lines.
If you have a garage with water supply lines, make sure to keep the garage doors closed.
Relocate any exposed pipes.
Open cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathroom to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Make sure to remove any harmful chemicals and cleaners.
Take the time to seal up any potential areas of cold air intrusion in the basement/garage (or wherever water lines may be located).
Make sure there isn’t any snow packed where the garage door seals to the floor.
Properly insulating water lines is a great way to minimize the risk of freezing vs. other mechanical methods, such as heat tape, that often don’t get plugged in, may not be installed correctly, and are subject to failures (especially during power outage situations).
If you are leaving for an extended period during cold temperatures, winterize your pipes; even if you are leaving for a short get away, have someone check your home on a regular basis.
These steps can help minimize the risk of water lines freezing and help save on energy/repair costs.
Written by Charlie Black and Karen Hale