How to Prepare Your Water Heater for Winter

Person adjusting the settings on their water heater tankBetween freezing weather and holiday festivities, the winter months can take a serious toll on your water heater. To ensure you have plenty of hot water all throughout the cold season, it’s important to prepare your water heater for winter as soon as temperatures begin to drop. Fortunately, seasonal maintenance doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Here are the top ways to get your water heater ready for winter weather:

Flush the Tank

Professionals recommend that homeowners flush their water heaters at least once per year to clear out any sediment that is building up inside of the tank. Since your water heater has to work harder in the winter to maintain warm temperatures, fall is the best time of year to empty and clean out your tank. To flush your water heater, follow these general steps:

  • Turn off the power source
  • Give the tank time to cool down
  • Close the water supply valve
  • Attach a hose to the drain valve
  • Open the drain valve and drain the water
  • Test the water quality for signs of sediment
  • Close the drain valve and refill the tank

If you aren’t sure how to flush your tank or have questions about the process, reach out to the experts at D & F Plumbing! Our licensed team has years of experience working on a variety of water heater types, so they can make the process quick and easy. 

Test the Pressure Relief Valve

Excess pressure inside of your water heater tank can lead to leaking, bursting, or flooding in your home. To keep your unit functioning safely and efficiently, you should regularly test the pressure relief valve.

Begin by looking for signs of leaking, such as puddles of water on the floor or dripping around the valve. Then, place a bucket underneath the valve to catch water. Gently open the valve and ensure water or gas releases, and then gently close the valve. If no water or gas releases, or if you notice signs of damage or leaking, then it’s time to contact a professional. 

Lower the Temperature

Cold weather places a lot of strain on your water heater by making it difficult to retain thermal energy. To keep your unit from working in overdrive, we recommend dialing back the heat just a little bit during the winter. If you normally keep your unit at 140 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, consider lowering the temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Doing so will not only prevent malfunctions, but it will also lower your utility bills significantly by reducing heat loss through the tank.

Check for Leaks or Corrosion

Leaking and corrosion are surefire signs that your water heater needs to be repaired or replaced. Look near your unit for puddles of water, dripping, or other moisture problems. Also, it’s prudent to pull out the anode rod to check for corrosion. If you notice any damage, contact a licensed plumber to inspect the water heater.

Schedule a Professional Inspection

If you want peace of mind knowing that your water heater is in great shape for the winter, schedule a professional maintenance service! At D & F Plumbing, our licensed experts are committed to providing you with excellent service and durable results. We are very familiar with common water heater problems, so we will provide you with recommendations on how to keep your unit functioning perfectly long-term. For a free estimate, get in touch with us today!

5 Common Winter Plumbing Issues

5 common winter plumbing issues in Vancouver WA and Portland OR - D&F Plumbing Services

5 common winter plumbing issues in Vancouver WA and Portland OR - D&F Plumbing ServicesOnce you’ve got your fuzzy socks and a warm mug of cocoa, you’re all ready for winter – right? Well, though these things are definitely essentials, you might be missing a couple of important steps. Before you bundle up for the winter, it’s important to prepare your home – or more specifically, your plumbing system – for the cold weather.

Your plumbing system is particularly susceptible to breaking in freezing temperatures, and damages could be quite expensive to repair. Experts estimate that a single burst pipe costs about $5,000 in damages (eek!). To ensure your home is protected from the cold weather, it’s important to know about the common winter plumbing issues and how to prevent them:

1. Burst Pipes

When water freezes inside of a pipe, it expands and causes an increase in pressure that could cause the pipe to break. That’s why burst pipes are such a common problem in winter, and why it’s crucial to protect your plumbing system as temperatures drop. To avoid a burst pipe, you can insulate exposed pipes with heating tape or other pipe insulation. If you aren’t sure how to properly insulate your pipes, an expert may be able to help.

2. Clogged Drains

Clogged drains are a common plumbing issue that can happen during any season. However, winter holidays often mean more cooking and more guests. The combination of increased usage and possible substances – like oil or fat – going down the drain could cause a tough clog. To prevent a backup this winter, try to keep things like coffee grounds, eggshells, and grease from going down the drain.

3. Water Heater Failure

When cold temperatures hit, your water heater has to work much harder to bring you the same amount of warm water – especially if you have guests who are increasing your water usage. The extra strain on your water heater could increase wear and tear while amplifying any problems with your unit. To ensure your water heater is prepared for winter, we recommend draining your tank and scheduling a professional inspection.

4. Frozen Septic Tanks

Septic systems are particularly susceptible to the cold. If your tank freezes over, it could prevent bacteria from treating the sewage, which may cause your tank to overflow or leak raw sewage. That is why it’s critical to winterize your septic tank before winter is in full swing. You can do so by insulating exposed pipes, regularly using hot water, and keeping the drain field clear of any traffic. If it has been 2 or more years since you last pumped your tank, you may also want to do so before winter to avoid backups. To ensure your septic system is totally protected from the cold, you could also contact an expert for personalized recommendations.

5. Leaks and Drips

Leaks and drips are common plumbing problems year-round, but they are more common in the winter. Cold temperatures often cause old or weakened pipes to freeze over and develop more leaks, which are often more challenging to fix in winter weather. To prevent more leaks and drips in the winter, we recommend scheduling a professional inspection to fix any weakened pipes before cold weather sets in.

Plumbing Winterization in Portland OR

Winterizing your plumbing system is an important part of protecting your home from the damage that freezing temperatures can cause. A little bit of preparation and maintenance could save you a lot of time, money, and stress.

If you want to ensure your plumbing system is completely protected from the cold, call a licensed plumber like those at D & F Plumbing to get personalized recommendations. Our skilled technicians have been proudly serving the greater Portland OR area for nearly 100 years, and we can use our expertise to help keep your home safe all winter long. If you want help winterizing your plumbing, call the experts at D & F Plumbing today!

Winter Plumbing Tips

Frozen outdoor pipe. D & F talks about winter plumbing tips to help prevent a pipe from rupturing in Portland OR and Vancouver WA.

Frozen outdoor pipe. D & F talks about winter plumbing tips to help prevent a pipe from rupturing in Portland OR and Vancouver WA.

Frozen pipes and burst pipes are expensive and stressful to deal with. During cold temperatures, burst pipes are one of the most common causes of property damage, estimating about $5,000 in repairs. Yikes! Save yourself the cost, stress, and damage related to frozen pipes and follow these helpful winter plumbing tips from us instead, before Old Man Winter strikes! You’ll be glad you did.

Insulate Pipes

The pipes most at risk are the ones located in attics, garages, and crawl spaces. However, pipes in cupboards and exterior walls can also freeze. One way to protect the pipes in these vulnerable areas is with pipe insulation. Pipe insulation is affordable, easy to install, and can be found at most hardware stores.

You can also use a heat cable for vulnerable pipes as long as you have an electrical outlet nearby.

Apply Faucet Covers

Whether you call them faucets or sillcocks these outdoor plumbing fixtures can burst from cold air if left unprotected. Drain all of your outside faucets and cover them. You can purchase foam faucet covers from most retailers. After you’ve insulated your outdoor faucets, deactivate them at the shutoff valve.

Winterize Outdoor Drains

Remove foliage and other debris from your gutters, downspouts, and storm drains to ensure all of your exterior drains work properly. This will help prevent flooding during heavy rainfall and snow.

Shut off the Water When Leaving Town

If you’re heading out of town for a few days, you may want to shut off your main water supply. This will help prevent excessive damage if your pipes do freeze and burst while you’re gone.

Keep Your Thermostat Consistent

Although many homeowners tend to lower their thermostats to save money, this plan may actually backfire. Burst pipes cost much more than the money you’d be saving on your energy bill. Instead, we recommend you keep your thermostat settings consistent throughout the day and night. This will keep your home comfortable and keep your pipes free of ice.

Inspect Your Water Heater

You rely on your water heater for showers, laundry, and dishes. The last thing you want is for your water heater to break during a cold snap, so make sure it is running properly and efficiently. Signs you may need water heater maintenance or repairs include rusty water, water leaks, and unusual sounds from your water heater.

Keep Kitchen Drains Clear

This time of year is a common time for holiday gatherings and feasts. Just be sure to properly dispose of food. Don’t pour grease, oils, or fats down your kitchen drain or garbage disposal or you may suffer a drain clog.

Let the grease harden then scrape it in a trash can. If you do experience a kitchen drain clog, don’t use any store-bought products. These are not long-term solutions and can damage your pipes as they carve away at the lining. Instead, contact your local plumber. They have professional-grade equipment like snakes and video inspection tools.

What to do if you have a frozen pipe

If you have a frozen pipe, it’s important to react as quickly as possible before it bursts. Apply warm rags to the pipe. If the pipe is inaccessible, contact your local plumber to thaw it and inspect it for damage.

We hope these tips help you as you work to winterize your plumbing this year. If you have a frozen pipe or burst pipe on your hands, give us a call. We provide emergency plumbing services and affordable financing.