One of the great things about living in Arlington and the greater Seattle area is the mild weather. Most of us don’t own air conditioners or car block heaters. In regions where freezing temperatures are common, homeowners tend to prepare. But our mild Pacific Northwest weather can create a false sense of security. However, you might be surprised to know that temps in Western Washington dip below freezing on average 23 days per year, and below 20 F 1 to 2 days per year. In 1950 Sea-Tac Airport recorded a record low of 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Pipes that are unprepared for temperatures this low are at risk of freezing and rupturing. Knowing how to keep pipes and a septic system from freezing can save you a fortune.
Be Aware of the Weather
Of course, the first thing to pay attention to is weather forecasts during the winter. If low temperatures are expected, make sure you purchase and apply special products, like pipe sleeves or heating cables. In case a purchase is not an option, you can use towels, newspapers, or leaf bags for insulation. When you’re prepared for freezing temperatures, your pipe and septic system will be safe.
Drain Exterior Pipes
When freezing temperatures are expected, drain swimming pools and sprinkler lines before the cold weather arrives. Don’t use antifreeze for the lines because it’s toxic and causes environmental damage.
A frozen garden hose can cause more damage than a busted one: it can actually burst an interior water pipe. When the water in the hose freezes, it expands, increasing pressure throughout the whole plumbing system. Detach the outside hoses, close inside valves to the exposed hose bib, then open the hose bib to let the remaining water drain.
Keep Pipes Warm
Outdoor pipes are at higher freezing risk because they are farther from any heating devices. If you do not have a shutoff valve that supplies the exterior water pipes, use an insulated sleeve to cover them. Once you place the insulation around the pipe, use insulation tape to secure it in place.
When it comes to indoor pipes, avoid heat loss by keeping all doors and windows closed, including the garage door. You can also place a space heater next to vulnerable pipes that are in the unheated areas of your house. It will keep pipes warm in such places as the garage, attic, basement, and crawl spaces.
If you travel during the cold season, make sure your home stays warm. Keep the thermostat above 55 degrees F day and night. Even though the heating bill may go up, this will prevent costly pipe repair and replacement work.
Maintain Good Water Pressure in the System
When possible, spread showers throughout the day, and turn up the water heater when the forecast calls for freezing temperatures. This will help maintain hot water in the system. The hot water that goes through the pipes will also increase the temperature inside the septic tank in your yard, which will keep it from freezing.
There are smart devices that can let you monitor the temperature of your pipes remotely. By installing a water flow and low temperature sensor on the main water supply pipe, you can have information and warnings sent directly to your smartphone which is especially useful when you’re far away from home.
Ask for Help
If there is a danger that the pipe system and the septic tank are about to freeze, it is recommended to contact a team of professionals who know how to keep pipes from freezing and can pump out the septic tank if the risk of it getting frozen is high.