3 Common Winter Plumbing Problems in Boise


Last year, Boise had a particularly snowy winter and near-record low temperatures. As a result, we got a lot of calls from homeowners who weren’t prepared for the winter plumbing problems that followed.

To better prepare you this season, we’ll show you how to prevent 3 common winter plumbing problems:

  1. Frozen pipes
  2. Water heater failure
  3. Frozen sump pump

Let’s go into more detail about each of these problems and how to prevent them…

#1: Frozen pipes

Why do frozen pipes burst?

So, you’d think that frozen pipes burst because ice expands inside the pipe, right?

Actually, that’s not the case.

The reason frozen pipes burst is because of pressure. When ice forms in part of your pipe, it pushes water towards the closed faucet. This causes pressure to build up between the faucet and the ice blockage. And that pressure eventually causes the pipe to burst, usually in an area where there’s little or no ice.

At what temperature do pipes burst?

Well, if water sits still in any temperature 32° F (when water freezes) or lower, your pipes are at risk for freezing, which means they could also burst.

But the risk for bursting pipes increases if your pipes aren’t well-insulated (see section below).

How to prevent this problem

Follow these tips to prevent freezing/bursting pipes:

  1. Turn on your faucet to a slow drip: Keeping the faucet open slightly will relieve pressure in the pipes.
  2. Keep cabinet doors open: Pipes are often located in kitchen sink cabinets, so in extreme temperatures consider leaving these doors open so warm air in the house can keep them warm.
  3. Add extra insulation: Pipes in unconditioned places like attics or basements may require extra insulation so they don’t freeze. Contact a plumber to add foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves to your exposed pipes.
  4. Disconnect your outdoor hose: If you leave your hose connected during the winter season, any water that’s left inside can freeze and expand, which could cause your pipes to burst eventually.

#2: Water heater failure

Why your water heater is likely to fail in winter

Colder temperatures means the water entering your home from the water supply will be very cold, which makes your water heater work harder to heat your home’s water.

This puts extra stress on your water heater, which increases the chance it will breakdown.

How to prevent this problem

The best way to prevent water heater failure is to schedule a water heater tune-up with a plumber to make sure it’s in good condition for the winter season. Your plumber will check for…

  1. Faulty or weak parts. The plumber will identify and replace any broken parts so your water heater can run smoothly (additional cost may apply).
  2. Low insulation. Your plumber will add insulation around the pipes and tank if they need to (additional cost may apply).
  3. Sediment buildup at the bottom of the tank. Natural minerals from incoming water often settle at the bottom of the tank, which makes it hard for your water heater to heat your water. A plumber can drain your water heater and clear this sediment buildup from your tank.
  4. The right thermostat temperature. If your water heater is set above 120° F, then your water heater is having to work extra hard to heat your home’s water.

#3: Frozen sump pump

Your home’s sump pump is responsible for keeping the area under your home dry, and to prevent your basement from flooding.

Sump pumps are typically installed in a pit that collects excess water (especially common in the winter months with heavy rain and snow) that drains into it. The sump pump then removes the water from this pit and pumps it out and away from your home.

If your sump pump isn’t properly insulated, then it could freeze and stop working, which puts your home at risk for flooding.

How to prevent this problem

If your sump pump isn’t currently insulated, contact a plumber to inspect and insulate the sump pump before winter.

Need help from a Boise plumber?

Contact Perfect Plumbing to schedule an appointment with one of our trusted plumbers. We’ll make sure your home is prepared for winter and should something break down this season, we’ll fix it ASAP.

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