As the leaves begin to change, and the jackets seem to get bigger, we all recognize the inevitable – winter is coming. Preparation for the cold temperatures is something that we Midwesterners have always known as a way of life. But as you work to keep you and your family warm during the winter, are you doing the same for your home’s pipes?

As water freezes, it expands into ice, resulting in expensive and problematic leaks when contained inside our home’s pipes. Winterizing your plumbing system is a simple yet effective way homeowners can prevent such damage from taking place.

Pipes in your home that are subject to cooler temperatures, such as near exterior walls or in a garage, are at higher risk of freezing over. Consider insulating these pipes with insulation sleeves, a cheap and effective option available at any local hardware store. Simply slide the sleeves onto your home’s pipes, and you have already taken a significant step in mitigating the risk of damage. Generally speaking, copper and plastic pipes are much more prone to damage from cold-temperature expansion than their pex pipe counterparts. Consider targeting these pipes first.

Insulate holes, cracks, or any other point of entry where cold air may enter your home. Often, the smallest of gaps in your home’s exterior is all that is necessary for a cold draft to enter your home. Consider surveying the exterior of your home during the fall with a caulk gun and sealing all cracks. If you have a crawlspace or basement, make sure that it is well insulated and any vents or openings are closed for the winter.

Ensure your home’s interior temperature remains above 55 degrees during the winter months. If you plan to leave your home for an extended period, consider winterizing its water system. A full winterization of your home includes a system flush designed to remove all standing water from water lines. Additionally, for some hard to flush places such as holding tanks or toilets, consider filling them with antifreeze as an extra layer of protection.

For pipes outside your home, you must flush these lines thoroughly, as you lack any ability to insulate these lines. If your home has an in-ground sprinkler system, considering calling professionals to flush your system clean. These in-ground systems are fragile and subject to expensive repairs if damaged by cold weather.

Long story short, it is easy to think of your home’s pipes in the same way you think about you and your comfort. If you find yourself in a room in your home that feels cold, your pipes feel it as well. If you feel a draft in your basement, you can assume your pipes do too. Through winterization, you can keep your pipes comfortable and, in turn, keep you, your family, and your family’s wallet comfortable.