Each winter provides risk of a “hard freeze” which requires planning by property owners to prevent costly water usage. You should conduct a thorough inspection of your home to identify potential problems in your water system which could lead to broken pipes.

Disconnect any outdoor water hoses. There is no need to water dormant vegetation; rain during this period should provide all the water necessary. Turn off all irrigation and sprinkler systems, and drain them before winter. See the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular brand of sprinkler.

Wrap all outdoor water pipes with insulation, also referred to as molded pipe sleeve, if you do not have a shutoff valve for the water that supplies them. Closed cell foam pipe insulation is available in different sizes from your hardware store or lawn and garden center. Once you place the insulation around the pipe, use insulation tape, also available at a hardware store, to secure the insulation in place. Seal around all pipes where they enter into your house with caulk or foam sealant.

It is essential that you inspect every water pipe that you possibly can to assure it is insulated properly. Many homes in the Tehachapi area have water pipes located in the attic. Although insulation may be blown into the attic area, your pipes still may not be protected from freezing weather. Water pipes often lie close to the eave vents where the wind has displaced the insulation leaving the pipes exposed. We recommend wrapping all pipes located in the attic, if at all possible. Reduce the vent size with a suitable material, but be careful not to close off completely – allow for the movement of air in the attic (remove for summer). If you use either fiberglass or cellulose type insulation, it must be kept dry in order to be effective. In addition to the above materials, electrical heat tapes are also available at most hardware stores. Ensure that the entire pipe is wrapped, including the shutoff valve. If you have outside spigots that are not in use, either turn off the water supply to them, if possible, or completely enclose them in insulation.

Some homeowners have wrapped their shutoff valve, but have failed to wrap pipes in the garage thinking that these pipes were safe from freezing because they were “inside”. This is not the case. Many of the broken pipes in the Golden Hills area have been those in garages. Insulate these pipes the same way you would any outside pipe.

Electric heat tapes may be needed in outdoor buildings, crawlspaces and other uninsulated areas to keep pipes from freezing in harsh winter temperatures. Pipe insulation alone may not be enough in prolonged cold weather. Wrapping the pipes in heat tape gives you an extra layer of insurance. You can buy heat tape in various lengths and wattages. Read the package for information on the recommended temperature to which that tape’s wattage will provide protection.

During extreme cold periods, open the cupboard doors underneath the kitchen and bathroom sinks if your water pipes are against the outside wall. This allows these pipes to get more heat. Combined with the added insulation, this will help prevent freezing.

If you have insulated properly and your pipe leading into the house still freezes, it can be thawed by removing the insulation, wrapping the pipe with several towels and then pouring hot water over the towels. Never pour hot water directly onto frozen pipes. Be careful not to get burned during the process. Hot water can be drawn from your hot water heater, or cold water from your toilet tank can be heated on the stove. After the thawing process is complete, re-wrap the pipes.

If you are going to be away for an extended period of time, give us a call and we’ll be more than happy to turn your water off at the water meter and then you can drain the water lines by opening the faucets and allowing the water to drain. If you do this, be sure to follow your hot water heater manufacturer’s directions. Do not turn your heating system off. The cost savings in energy is minimal compared to the cost of a flooded home. These steps can prevent leaks which may go undetected until a neighbor happens to notice water running off of your property or out of your house or garage.