How to Drain Your Home’s Water Pipes for Winter

When winter comes around, the temperature drops, and it gets to be time to bundle yourself up. Not all of your water pipes will get to enjoy the warmth of your home, so steps should be taken to ensure that the pipes do not get damaged by freezing water.

How does ice cause burst pipes?

You might be wondering how ice in your pipes and lines can cause them to burst or leak. Most of the time, when you use a hose or faucet, some water will still be in the pipes. When the temperature drops, the liquid that is left can freeze. About 9% more water is made when water freezes. Because of the growth, the pipes are under pressure. In a short amount of time, the pipes either burst or crack and start leaking.

If your house is occupied during the winter, then you only need to ensure that exposed piping gets drained and protected. The first thing that should be located is the main shut-off valve for the water. This valve should be marked and tested during warm days before it will be needed. You should also locate, mark, and test the shut-off valves for outdoor hookups for water hoses.

At this point, when winter starts to come around, you should remove all hoses and make sure that they are fully drained. Nicely coil them and put them away. Then locate the outdoor hookup shut-off valve and turn off the water for all outside hookups. Once all of the hookups have been shut off, then open up all of the outdoor spigots to let the water drain.

Make sure that the water drains completely, and leave the valves open all winter. To make extra sure that the pipes are dry, use an air compressor and charge the system to force out all of the water.

For water pipes that cannot be discharged, then the faucets and pipes that are exposed to unheated areas should be wrapped with an insulating wrap. If your hot water heater is also in an unheated area, it, too, should get wrapped up to insulate the water reservoir and conserve energy and prevent water freezing.

If you encounter a pipe that has been frozen, there are electric heating tapes that can be used to heat the pipes and hopefully prevent any damage from occurring. Above all else, have a trusted and well-reviewed plumber on speed dial.

There are further steps to take if you should leave home unheated or if the weather gets especially cold. In the latter case, you should find a faucet farthest from the water main and turn it on to just a trickle. This will keep the water flowing in all of your indoor pipes and prevent them from freezing.

If you plan on not keeping the home heated for an extended period of time, such as for a winter home, then the entire water system should be drained.

First, switch off the main water valve and ensure that no water enters the system. Then open all faucets and drain the system.

Do not forget to drain the reservoirs on all toilets and that any other system with a reservoir of water is drained. Then use an air compressor to make sure all of the water is discharged. To make sure that nothing freezes, you should put antifreeze in the drains, spigots, and reservoirs for the various systems, sinks, and tubs/showers. This will help to ensure nothing will freeze.

Photo of author
About the author
Ben White has written thousands of articles on everything home improvement. He has had the privilege of writing for such websites as the Huffington Post, DeWalt,, HGTV, and many others.

Leave a Comment