The thought of winter brings many pleasant images to mind. Snowmen, hot cider, hot chocolate, and a warm fireplace are among the winter wonderland delights we have to look forward to. But one unpleasant surprise about winter is plumbing issues. Frozen pipes, in particular, are among the most anticipated problems of freezing weather. Here are the ways that snow and ice can damage your pipes and what you can do about it.

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Greasing up Your Drain

Sometimes, you might forget or be too tired to reach for that grease storage jar. But pouring grease down the drain is a plumbing no-no. Although this seems relatively harmless during warmer weather, it could cost you your pipes in the winter. Grease clings to the sides of your pipes and freezes quickly. Because it’s so thick, it causes major blockages that slow down water passage. You’ll notice an overflow accompanied by a funky odor.

Instead of pouring grease down your drain, use a storage container. You can put it in the fridge until it cools off. You can throw it away or add it to your compost heap.

A Stinky Sewer Smell

A stinky sewer smell is a definite sign of trouble. If it’s accompanied by an overflow, the problem is a clogged drain. Food, grease, and other particles that are trapped are impacted further by snow and ice. In this case, you simply need to have your drains professionally unclogged so they don’t impact your pipes.

But not all odors mean the same. You may notice an identical smell without water backup. In this case, the problem could be your p-trap. The p-trap is the part of your pipe that’s located underneath your sink. It gets its name because it forms a “p” shape that curves downward. This allows water to get routed safely from your home. But the main function of the p-trap is to secure your home from sewer gas leaks by blocking them.

Unfortunately, p-traps can lose that ability during the winter. Ice, snow, and freezing temperatures will cause the p-trap to dry, making it less effective at blocking sewer gas. The problem is simple to fix. All it takes is a gallon of water poured down the drain to make the smell go away.

Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes are a common wintertime woe for most homeowners. There’s nothing more daunting than dealing with the side effects of a frozen pipe. Funny plumbing sounds and water that runs inside your walls are just the tip of the iceberg. But nothing is more unreal than dealing with the aftermath of a burst pipe. When it happens, it leaves a dreadful mess. Water gets all over your floors and can be expensive and time-consuming to clean up.

What’s even more costly is replacing a burst pipe. You can take preventive measures to safeguard your plumbing against ice and snow. You can opt for professionally installed pipe insulation to protect your pipes from being frozen.

Extreme temperatures can cause your pipes to expand or contract. Constant fluctuations in size can put wear and tear on your pipes by creating holes or cracks. Caution is advised when thawing your pipes because the pressure can cause them to burst. You can ease the hassle by turning on your faucets. But you don’t want to turn them on full force, nor do you want extreme hot or cold water. Your best bet is to run lukewarm water at a slow trickle to save money.

A Drop in Water Pressure

When pipes get cold, they constrict. This leaves very little room for water to travel safely to your home. When you turn your faucet or shower head on, you’ll notice less water coming out. A slight trickle is indicative of a frozen pipe.

Issues With Hot Water

In most cases, issues with hot water can be traced to a faulty water heater. Since it’s usually placed in either your basement or your garage, your water heater is in the coldest area of your home. Any water supply that comes from the outside impacts water temperatures. Consequently, your water heater works overtime to provide you with enough hot water.

Another common problem is increased demand. Most people use more hot water during the winter, which means more work for your hot water heater. It could experience a lot of wear and tear, which leads to costly repairs. You’ll notice an increase in your monthly utility bills because it takes more energy for your water heater to heat up your water. Cold water that lingers around your pipes and plumbing is one of the central causes of this common dilemma.

Revisiting Your Pipes: What to Do if They Freeze?

If no water comes out after turning on your faucet, chances are you have a frozen pipe. You can follow the steps below to thaw them out.

Turn Off Your Water Supply

Locate the main supply valve and shut off your water. It should be located in the basement or crawl space near your foundation. Check around your furnace or water heater if you don’t find it there. Turn it clockwise several times until it shuts off completely. Once done, turn on every faucet in your home. This ensures that the supply is off and there’s no extra water inside your fixtures.

Locate the Frozen Pipe and Inspect It for Leaks

Start by looking around in your basement or attic. If it’s not there, try your crawl space or beneath a sink. The first indicator of a frozen pipe is the presence of frost, typically located outside. Cracks or holes are another sign of winter weather damage, so check your pipe thoroughly. If you see any, notify your plumber immediately.

Try to Thaw Your Pipe

It’s easy to thaw a frozen pipe. Use a hairdryer and set it on hot. Run the air along the side of the pipe until the frost disappears. If you can’t find a hairdryer, try a space heater. Both appliances will get your pipe thawed safely and without causing a crack.

It is not recommended to use an open flame when thawing a frozen pipe, as it can cause cracks or holes in the pipe.

The Benefits of Prevention

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and your pipes are no exception. When you take preventive steps to winter-proof your pipes, you protect yourself from the expense of a damaged plumbing system. You don’t need to worry about mold, mildew, or costly damages. You’ll have strong, healthy pipes that will continue to deliver fresh, hot water during the season. Most importantly, you’ll extend the life of your entire plumbing system. You’ll decrease the likelihood of replacing any plumbing parts or scheduling expensive repairs.

At Magic Electric, Plumbing, Heating + Air, we offer our customers a variety of plumbing options for their Boise, ID, home. Our technicians provide reliable service and affordable pricing. We offer water leak detection, water main repair, and damaged pipe repair. And if your pipes burst under pressure, don’t worry. We can re-pipe your plumbing system. Visit Magic Electric, Plumbing, Heating + Air online today to learn more.

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