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How Do I Shut The Water Off For The Winter?

It seems to only be getting cooler and cooler, so there are a few things that you need to do at this time of year to prepare your home for the coming winter months. NOW is the time to make sure that everything is in proper working order. You don’t want to leave it until the temperature is dipping below zero to find out that things do not work properly and are at risk! Sometimes it takes some time to get someone in to fix things, so be prepared!

The most important thing to do when preparing your house for the cold it to make sure you fully shut any outside sources of water. I know, I know, half of you reading this have never shut the water off to your outside hoses in the winter and have never had a problem. Maybe the valve doesn’t work properly, maybe you’ve never tried, or maybe you don’t even know IF there is a valve at all! I can tell you with full certainty that not shutting the water off is like playing Russian Roulette – if you play long enough, eventually you will lose. I’m sure there are lots of you that could chime in with a frozen/burst pipe story of your own after thinking you are also invincible!

Now for the good news: if things are working properly, shutting the water to the outside and eliminating the risk of freezing is a very easy 3 step process! We’ll go through that now:

1. As you know, the first thing you must do is to fully shut the valve on the inside of the house. There are typically two types of valves you may see to do this. In most older homes, you will have what are called “Globe” or “Gate” valves. These are the ones with the round handles that must be turned clockwise to close. If in a newer home, or you’ve gone through renovations, there will likely be a “Ball” valve. With this type of valve, you must turn the handle perpendicular to the direction of the pipe to close it. **Side Note: If you haven’t touched an older valve in a very long time, make sure to monitor the valve itself for slow leaks – when untouched and then closed for the first time in a long time, the rubber seals can fail, causing slow leaks from the valve itself.

2. After you’ve shut the water, you will now go outside and release the pressure from the pipe – this way you don’t take an unwanted shower in Step 3! Be sure to take off and drain the garden hose, then open the outside valve. It is very important that you leave the valve outside open for the winter. If the valve inside the house isn’t fully closed, or isn’t working 100%, that water will show up as an icicle outside, rather than just building up inside the pipe (and freezing). Leaving that outside valve open will tell you if there is another problem that you need to take care of!

3. Now for our final step. Go back inside the house and return to the valve you originally turned off. On the side of the valve, there should be a small cap called the “bleeder” port (many of you will not have this cap – that means that they originally installed the wrong type of valve and you should have it replaced). Make sure you have a small cup or bowl to catch any water, then open that cap. Opening that cap will allow any water that is still trapped inside the pipe to escape (and not freeze – yay!). Once the water has stopped, put the cap back on so you don’t lose it!

As your best plumber friend, I ask that you PLEASE take 5 minutes and make sure everything is working this weekend. Like I said before, you don’t want to find out it isn’t working when it is already too late and things are at risk of going awry!

I hope you all have another great week and we’ll see you next time!



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