Most fall plumbing maintenance tasks are performed with two goals in mind: preventing water damage to your home or high water bills caused by breaks and leaks related to frozen pipes. These fall maintenance tasks do not take long and can save you big when we get freezing temps this winter.
Many Charlotte residents don’t realize how much a threat freezing temps are to Southern plumbing systems. Our homes are set up for warm weather, but every year we hit stretches where temps plummet and stay below freezing for multiple days, and our vulnerable pipes freeze and burst. Every winter we get flooded with calls from panicked homeowners dealing with burst pipes and water damage.
Put aside one Saturday afternoon in November and knock these out. You’ll be glad you did.
Check Your Shut Off Valve
If a pipe breaks, you need to shut off the water to your home ASAP. You (and anyone else who might be home alone—think teenagers) need to know where your shut off valve is and that it’s in working order.
Why should you be concerned that it’s in working order? Because older shut off valves sometimes rust and become difficult to shut off. That is a terrible problem to encounter in a water damage emergency.
Here’s what you need to do.:
- Find your shut off valve. Your main water shut off valve is attached to your water meter. Don’t know where your water meter is? If you’re in Charlotte NC or a Southern city, your water meter is probably by the curb in front of your house, housed in a metal pit or concrete box. It will probably be marked with the word “water” on it. If you live in a colder climate, your water meter is probably in the basement. You’ll have to use pliers or a screwdriver to open the lid.
- Test your shut off valve. Once you locate your water meter, notice the two pipes coming out on either side of your water meter. Atop these two pipes should be two valves or levers. The one that goes to the house (from the meter) is the house side shut off valve. The one that goes from the meter to the street is the supply side shut off valve. When turning off the main water supply, you’ll want to turn off the supply side. Turn it off. Then go inside and turn on a faucet. Once you’ve certified that it’s working, turn it back on and replace the lid.
- If the valve did not work or is very hard to turn, replace the valve. It’s important to have a working shut off valve. You can find them at your local hardware store, and they are inexpensive and easy to replace.
Insulate Exposed Pipes
This isn’t a hard winterizing project, and it doesn’t take long, either. The critical pipes to protect are those that run through unheated spaces. These are pipes located in exterior walls, unheated garages, the floor cavities above unheated crawl spaces, unheated attics, etc. Generally speaking, it's not necessary to insulate pipes that run through interior walls or in heated basements.
Identify which pipes you want to insulate. Purchase insulating materials (insulating sleeves are the easiest to use) at the local hardware store and apply them to the pipes.
Need more specific direction? Get step-by-step instructions for insulating pipes here.
Install a Smart Home Water Control Device
Smart home water control devices (also referred to as leak defense valves, leak defense tools, and leak defense systems) protect your home from leaks and water waste by monitoring your water use and establishing a baseline for water usage. When any variation occurs, the system identifies where the extra usage is happening and alerts you (via your smart phone or laptop) that extra water is being used. Once alerted of a drip, leak or unusual water usage, you can choose to turn off the water—no matter where you are.
This is ideal for preventing water damage while you are away from your home. On vacation when a pipe bursts? No problem! Turn off the water supply to your home (or even just part of your home) remotely from the app installed on your phone. Realize you forgot to turn off your sprinkler when you’re halfway to work? Turn it off using your phone.
Smart home water control devices protect you from water damage emergencies and help you control how much water you use. Learn more about smart home water control device options here.
Winterize Your Irrigation System
You need to winterize your irrigation system so the pipes will not freeze and burst. Follow these steps:
- Shut off the water supply to stop water from flowing in the system.
- While the spout is closed, connect an air compressor to the mainline.
- Configure the station on the device at the highest elevation away from the compressor in the zone or the sprinklers.
- Close the containment valves for the backflow, and then gently unlock the compressor valve to allow the sprinkler system to be filled with air.
- Turn off the compressor and detach it from the device after the water has been cleared from the irrigation system.
Need more detailed directions? Get step-by-step directions on how to winterize your irrigation system here.
Winterization of your irrigation system includes backflow testing. Backflow occurs when clean water reverses direction, pulling (through suction) dirty water into the water supply via your irrigation system connection. That’s why irrigation systems have backflow preventer kits installed.
Charlotte area regulations require you to test your backflow preventer annually to ensure your water supply is not being contaminated. E.R. Plumbing Services is a certified backflow testing company. We’ll gladly test for you.
Need Help With Fall Plumbing Maintenance?
We’re here to help! Give us a call and let us know what you need done. You’ll see we have thousands of 5-star reviews and the happy customers to back up our reputation as the top Charlotte plumbing company devoted to helping our customers keep their plumbing systems up to date.
Quick question & answer: What is the best fall plumbing maintenance I should do every year?
Fall plumbing maintenance is important to prevent water damage and to keep water bills from spiking due to breaks and leaks from frozen pipes. Put these tasks on your to-do list before November 30th:
- Check your shut-off valve
- Insulate exposed pipes
- Install a smart home water control device
- Winterize your irrigation system
- Test your irrigation system’s backflow preventer