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Winterizing outdoor pipes

The best way to keep pipes from freezing is to not have any water in them at all. If possible, turn off the water supply that feeds pipes in empty buildings, pasture water lines, sprinklers, and garden hoses.

One of the challenges in winter is keeping the water pipes outside the house from freezing. You'll have an instant ice skating rink if your outside pipes crack and thaw out.

The best way to keep pipes from freezing is to not have any water in them at all. If possible, turn off the water supply that feeds pipes in empty buildings, pasture water lines, sprinklers, and garden hoses.

If you have to use outside pipes during freezing weather, ag engineering specialist Shawn Shouse says there are two options that work well to keep the water flowing.

"One option is to add heat to the water through things like electrical heat tape. This tape can be wrapped on pipes and then plugged in if you've got electricity available," Shouse says. "You can also add heat to outside pipes with a heating device like a heat lamp if it's in an enclosed space, a relatively small building, or something similar."

If adding heat isn't feasible, try running a constant trickle of water through the pipes. It doesn't have to be warm water. Of course you don't want to do this all winter, but a steady trickle works well during those extreme cold spells when you're worried about the pipes freezing solid.

Insulate the pipes

Outdoor water lines that run through a heated area can benefit from having insulation wrapped around them.

"For example," Shouse says, "if a short run of pipe had to go through an unheated space where most of the pipe was protected but it went through a crawl space under the house, then wrap that pipe with insulation. When the water comes through, the heat can't escape from the water line as it's passing through the unheated space. That kind of insulation can help."

Water pipes that are exposed in barns and sheds can be insulated, too, but keep your animals in mind. Livestock might find the insulation interesting to chew on.

Winterize outside pipes before the temperatures drop; you'll save yourself some costly plumbing repairs.

Learn more

Shawn Shouse
712/769-2600
www.extension.iastate.edu/ag/fsae/ae4.html

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