During periods of heavy snowfall, snow accumulation can block the fresh air intake and/or exhaust systems for some gas furnaces and water heaters, including tankless water heaters. The pictures below show common configurations of PVC exhaust piping for such equipment. It is imperative that these pipes do not become blocked by snow.
Carney Plumbing Heating & Cooling Blog: Archive for the ‘Winterizing’ Category
This time of year, it seems that you’re covering almost everything. You’re wrapping up in hats and scarves and you’re putting frost blankets over your garden plants at night. You might even be covering a beloved boat, motorcycle, or summer convertible.
If you have an outdoor air conditioner that won’t be used during the winter months, you might be wondering if you should cover it, too. The answer is – yes!
Covering your air conditioner is one of the best ways to protect your investment and keep future costs down. Here’s why:
- Covering your outdoor air conditioner provides maximum protection against debris (leaves, branches, acorns, pine needles, sand, and salt).
- A cover stops precipitation from getting into the system, then freezing and expanding. (Also, if you live near the ocean, it keeps out salty water and air.)
- An air conditioner cover minimizes the possibility of damage during storms, when tree branches or hail may fall on the unit and chip the paint or bend the fins on the grille.
- You’ll increase the efficiency of your air conditioner by keeping the condensing coil clean (good for the environment and for your wallet!)
- You’ll have less cleaning and repairing to do next spring – and your maintenance costs will be lower!
Covering your air conditioner will extend its life and reduce its operating costs. But…you need to be smart about how you cover your outdoor AC. If you cover it with plastic, you may trap moisture around the unit, creating ideal conditions for rust, mold, and mildew. This is especially a concern on those sunny winter days when the air inside the cover will heat up to be much hotter than the outside air. Also, a plastic cover can create a very cozy place for rodents and insects to spend the winter. Once they’re inside the cover, it won’t take them long to find their way into the equipment itself.
You should make sure to choose a cover made of breathable material – NOT plastic. The cover should also have appropriate ventilation to ensure that moisture doesn’t build up.
How do you choose the best cover for your air conditioner? Consult your owner’s manual, and contact us for advice. We’ll be happy to help.
Also, make sure to schedule a service appointment for the spring, before you start your unit up again. The service will include a thorough cleaning of any debris that did find its way into your unit, plus a check for any damage to the fins. We’ll also check that the pipe insulation is in good shape and that the unit is level – two simple but important things that can improve your unit’s functioning and efficiency.
P.S. If you have a window AC unit, the ideal solution is to take it out for the winter instead of covering it.
Burst pipes are expensive, destructive, and…preventable.
Most people know that they need to winterize the plumbing in a camp or vacation home to keep it from freezing over the winter and bursting the pipes. But you also need to winterize the plumbing in your primary residence, even if you’re going to stay there all winter.
This is really one of those situations where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – and the prevention is easy.
The right pro-active maintenance will keep your home’s pipes warm and cozy all winter, so that you and your possessions stay comfortable and DRY!
Here’s how you do it:
1. Insulate exposed pipes
Check to see if you have exposed piping in un-insulated spaces such as a crawlspace, attic, outside walls, etc.
If you have exposed piping, you should insulate the pipes. The materials are inexpensive and the task doesn’t require a high level of DIY skill. However, it does require patience and care to ensure that pipes are completely covered.
There are a number of different options for insulating pipes. You can wrap regular fiberglass attic insulation around pipes, but an easier alternative is the foam or fiberglass tubing (also called “tubular sleeve insulation”) that is made specifically for pipes. You should look for insulation with an R-4 rating (most standard 5/8 foam tubes have this rating).
Whatever insulation you use, make sure you begin by removing any dirt or grease from the pipes with a rag and mild cleanser. Allow the pipes to dry thoroughly before wrapping them with insulation. Make sure you cover the pipe completely, taking extra care at corners wherever two sleeves or pieces of insulation meet. Wrap these areas with duct tape to seal them completely.
(Always use duct tape to secure the insulation to your pipes. Other forms of tape, like masking or electrical, will stretch or break over time. You’ll lose the integrity of your seal, and eventually you’ll have to tape the pipes all over again.)
If you have pipes that have frozen in past winters, or pipes in spaces that will fall below zero, you may wish to consider using heating tape. It is a plastic strip with heating elements embedded in it that can be wrapped around pipes and plugged in. Heating tape is easy to install and can be purchased in most hardware stores. While it is effective, it can be expensive to operate and so should only be used when regular insulation is not enough.
Note: When you’re looking for exposed pipes to insulate, focus on pipes where the water comes in, not pipes where the water drains. Drain pipes – except for the traps beneath sinks, tubs, and showers – generally do not hold enough water to cause damage if frozen.
2. Caulk outside pipes
Caulk around pipes where they enter your house from the outside. There are lots of different types of caulk, so check with your plumber or local hardware store to find out which type will be best for your home.
3. Shut off and drain exterior faucets (or insulate them)
First, go down to your basement and locate the shut-off valve for each exterior faucet. Turn the valve so that the water supply is shut off. Then, go outside and turn the faucet on, so that any remaining water drains out of the faucet. (You can leave the faucet in the on position all winter.)
Not all faucets have a separate shut-off valve in the basement. Check with your plumber if you’re unsure.
If you can’t shut off and drain your exterior faucets, you should insulate them. The easiest, most attractive, and most effective way to insulate them is with molded foam insulating covers. These are available at most hardware stores.
And…don’t forget to drain your hoses and bring them inside for the winter! You should also drain and shut down your sprinkler system (follow the manufacturer’s instructions).