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  • Writer's pictureThe Coldstream Team

Common Winter Plumbing Problems in Vernon BC and Their Solutions

Winter, even though it's beautiful with its pristine snowfall and cozy evenings, can bring its own set of challenges for Vernon BC homeowners and business owners. North Okanagan winters can be tough on plumbing, given the unique weather patterns and piercing cold of this region. Hence, if you're a homeowner in Vernon, it's crucial to be aware of common winter plumbing problems and to be equipped with effective solutions to counteract them BEFORE the extreme cold hits.

blue and white graphic outlining common winter plumbing problems in vernon bc

Here Are the Most Common Winter Plumbing Problems Affecting Vernon BC Homeowners and Business Owners:

Frozen Pipes

Arguably the most dreaded of common winter plumbing issues, frozen pipes can wreak havoc if not addressed promptly. Water expands as it freezes, leading to potential cracks and pipe bursts. Such incidents can cause significant water damage, leading to costly repairs and replacements.

The common plumbing problem is compounded and made worse if it happens in the middle of an Okanagan winter! So, since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, the folks here at Coldstream Mechanical ALWAYS recommend preventative maintenance for your plumbing systems before the harsh winter cold sets in.

a frozen tap uncovered and attached to a house during a vernon bc winter

Solutions to Frozen Pipes:

  • Insulate Your Pipes: This is a crucial step. Insulating materials can be easily found at local hardware stores. Make sure you cover all exposed pipes, especially those in colder areas like crawlspaces, basement, or garages. And, if your pipes freeze and you need help with pipe thawing and repair in the Vernon BC area, give us a call!

  • Use Frost-Free Taps: This is one of the easiest ways to prevent your basement or crawl space from flooding if your outside tap cracks. Frost free faucets are designed to keep water from freezing inside the pipe and valve and causing damage. Side note, though, frost proof taps aren't infallible. Make sure your frost free tap is installed properly so it has a better chance of doing its job properly.

  • Keep a Steady Drip: If you're NOT on a septic system, during particularly cold nights, you can leave a faucet running at a slow drip. This constant water movement reduces the chances of freezing. This is a bit trickier if you’re on a septic system, unless you have a large tank and a very efficient septic field. If you have a small tank and you run a drip, you also run the risk of overfilling your tank too quickly and risking a backup. So in this instance, it’s much better to err on the side of caution and just make sure your pipes are properly insulated!

  • Use a small heater to heat spaces that are close to areas where freezing can occur: This can be very effective, even by just by raising the temperature a few degrees to keep pipes from freezing. But, AGAIN, you have to use CAUTION when setting up a heater because improper setup has been known to burn down houses.

Water Heater Challenges

During winter, the water entering your heater is colder, making the unit work harder to warm it up. Over time, this can strain the system, leading to inefficiencies or even a breakdown.

Solutions to Water Heater Issues:

  • Regular Preventative Maintenance: Once per year, it's a great idea to have a service tech come in and give your water heater a once over to check it for wear and tear and assess whether it's running optimally.

  • Upgrade: If your unit is old, consider upgrading to a more efficient model. While the upfront cost might be significant, the long-term energy savings will be substantial. A new unit will also be likely to last longer if it gets annual maintenance.

  • If you're unsure about the current state of your water heater, you may need a plumber or one of our HVAC specialists to help you figure it out. Call or contact us today and we'll get you set up for a water heater assessment and service.

Septic System Worries

Winter's cold grip on Vernon BC and the surrounding North Okanagan can extend deep into the ground, affecting your septic system. A frozen septic system can lead to unpleasant backups and potential damage, but there are few things you can do to ensure your septic will function efficiently throughout winter.

a kitchen sink full of water and debris from septic tank back up in the middle of a vernon bc winter

Solutions to Septic System Issues:

  • Pre-Winter Maintenance: This can't be stressed enough. Preventative maintenance for your septic system before winter ensures it's in optimal condition. This includes ensuring your pipes are clear of grease, hair, and other debris that can cause backups and clogs, having your tank pumped out every 2-3 years (or yearly if you have a large household), and ensuring your septic field is draining properly.

  • Limit Water Use During Snow Melt: As snow melts, groundwater levels rise. Limiting water use during this time can reduce stress on your septic system, especially if you live within or close to a floodplain.

  • Contact a septic system in Vernon BC if you think it's time for some septic maintenance or repairs. Here are some well-known and reputable septic companies in the North Okanagan:

  • North Okanagan Pumping Service

  • Special T Sewer & Drain Cleaning Services

Drainage Dilemmas

Winter festivities in the North Okanagan often mean more cooking and more guests for Vernon Homeowners and this can lead to increased chances of clogs in your drains.

Solutions to Clogged Drains and Backups:

  • Mindful Disposal of Organic Matter: Never pour fats, oils, or grease down drains as they can solidify (especially in cooler weather) and cause blockages. Educate guests about what can and can't go down the drain (and the toilets if you're on a septic system).

a frying pan full of grease sits next to a kitchen sink and the grease has caused a clog

  • Use Drain Strainers: This simple tool can prevent larger food particles from entering your drain, mitigating potential clogs.

  • Use an Environmentally-Friendly Drain Clearing Solution: There are many homemade and eco-friendly drain cleaners out there (some that even work well with septic systems) that can dissolve hair and grease and all sorts of other gunk and clear your drains and pipes without killing critters or microbes in the environment.

Sump Pump Setbacks

Sump pumps are lifesavers for homes susceptible to flooding. But during winter, these pumps can face challenges, particularly from frozen discharge lines.

Solutions to Sump Pump Issues:

  • Regular Inspection: Ensure that the discharge line is clear of debris and ice. Also, position it to ensure water flows away from the home.

  • Backup Power: Winter storms can cause power outages. Consider a battery backup for your sump pump to ensure continuous operation.

Additional Tips for Preventing Winter Plumbing Issues:

  • Protect Hose Bibs: Disconnect garden hoses and use an insulated cover to protect outdoor hose bibs from freezing temperatures.

a black bag covers an outdoor tap to protect the hose bib from frost during cold vernon winters

  • Locate Main Water Shut Off Valve: Familiarize every member of your household with its location. In emergencies, shutting off this valve can prevent extensive water damage.

  • Professional Insight: Always remember, if a situation seems too complicated, it's better to seek professional guidance. Need a plumber in Vernon BC? Contact us today! We can help!

While winter's charm is undeniable, it comes with specific challenges, especially with plumbing issues. The key lies in prevention, timely intervention, and, when needed, professional assistance. With the right precautions and awareness of common winter plumbing problems in Vernon and the North Okanagan, you can enjoy the winter months with peace of mind, knowing your home is secure and free from plumbing woes.

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