Learn How to Protect Your Plumbing

Written by Joe Perritt
Updated October 6, 2015
Plumbers check bathroom insulation
It doesn't cost a lot to protect your plumbing, and the benefits can last for years. (Angie's List)

Guarding your home's plumbing from the elements and decay is a fairly simple and affordable process.

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From ancient first century aqueducts to modern, pipeless indoor sinks, plumbing systems have been a part of daily life for generations.

Imagine a life where crops aren't fed, bodies aren't bathed and bellies remain dehydrated. Without pumps, drains, pipes and traps, life would be incredibly hard; so take the time to appreciate water-disbursement systems and learn how to protect your plumbing from bursting or clogging—you might just save a ton of cash on future repair bills.

Clog Prevention

The first step to protecting your pipes is by ensuring that everyone in the household understands what should and shouldn't be flushed down the drain.

Although city sewers are designed to accept a wide variety of debris, your home's drains are not. And items like paper towels, cigarette butts, plastic, cotton balls and Q-tips can cause costly clogs to occur. In addition, certain food items like cooking grease or animal fats should never be rinsed down the sink.

Pipe Insulation

Basements and crawlspaces can reach temperatures low enough to easily freeze or crack water lines, especially if the water lines are copper. Nothing is worse than trying to remedy a frozen or busted pipe in the dead of winter, and if you can't fix the problem yourself, be prepared to spend a pretty penny for an emergency repair job. Fortunately, this situation can almost always be avoided beforehand by spending just a few bucks on pipe-insulation products.

Insulating sleeves can also stop condensation from occurring, which can help to prevent decay or mold. Before you decide to insulate your water lines, determine if they are made from copper or PEX (plastic). Copper is fairly brittle and can freeze easily, which makes it the perfect candidate for insulation. Despite PEX's relatively recent arrival in the plumbing world, it is very popular due to its dependable insulation value and incredible flexibility, and there's a good chance you won't even need to apply insulation.

Although there are many types of insulating products, pre-slit polyethylene insulation sleeves continue to be the best option for most homes because of their easy-to-install designs and affordability. PE pipe insulation can be found in virtually any home-improvement store, and it will only cost about $2 for a six-foot section.

Make sure to get the right size for each portion of pipe—the sizes will range anywhere from one inch to 1/4 inch. The installation process is also very easy. Just determine which size the pipe is and slip on the appropriate insulation sleeve. For 90-degree pipe fittings, make 45-degree cuts and butt the two sleeves together, and for T-shaped fittings, make a small slice in each opposing sleeve to secure an airtight fit. Some insulating products feature adhesive strips that are designed to create an airtight seal, but if you purchase sleeves without the adhesive strips, you can wrap the joints, gaps or slits with duct tape. If portions of your plumbing system are too complex or in hard-to-reach areas, it might be a good idea to hire a licensed plumber or certified pipe insulator to help with the installation process.

Learning how to protect your plumbing should be considered an integral part of being a homeowner. With just a touch of knowledge and a few bucks, anyone can stop plumbing problems from happening, and the added benefit of improved energy transfer will also help to cut down your utility bills.

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