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Winterize outbuilding pipes

Tips to prevent your water pipes from freezing

One of the challenges of winter is keeping the water pipes from freezing in your outbuildings, especially when they’re not heated. Even if you live in a moderate climate, a long cold snap will give you headaches if the pipes burst.

Richard Beard is an ag engineering specialist at Utah State University. He says the first step in protecting your pipes is to turn off the water to the outbuilding and drain the pipes. If there’s no water in them, there won’t be a problem. If water can’t be shut off, Beard says you’ll have to add a heat source and insulation to protect the pipes.

"One of the simplest things is heat tape. That seems to work real well and as long as you have electricity, that will do the job," says Beard. "It’s not too difficult to add. You can wrap the pipes in heat tape, put some insulation wrap around them, and that will take care of it."

You can also install a thermal control unit that will turn the heat tape on when the temperature drops below a certain degree setting. When the temperature rises, it will automatically shut off.

Water lines that run through a heated area will benefit from having some sort of insulation wrapped around them. Keep the critters in mind when insulating exposed pipes in barns and sheds, however. They might find the insulation nice to chew on.

Sometimes water lines and storage tanks aren’t being used, but it’s not possible to drain the water from them. Beard says an option that’s becoming very popular in this case is to use antifreeze that’s meant for RV’s.

"If you have a place where water’s going to stand, say, some kind of a holding unit or tank where water’s going to be in there over the winter but you don’t want to insulate the whole thing, you can use this RV-type insulation to keep that water from freezing," says Beard. "And then of course in the spring before you use it again you need to drain everything out and flush out the system."

Learn more:

The science behind frozen water pipes

Tips for winterizing other water systems

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