winterization vs insulation - house wrapped in scarf

Winterization vs Insulation: What’s The Difference?

We’re now deep into Winter and homeowners in much of the country are trying to understand winterization versus insulation.

Is there a difference? And, if so, what is it? What are the pros and cons for each? And how do we use either one to make sure our plumbing systems are safe from freezing, bursting, and creating water damage?

Read on for these answers and more.

Do I Need to Winterize or Insulate My Pipes?

When water freezes, it expands. This expansion places tremendous pressure on the inside walls and joints of pipes and drains. Eventually, the pipe will split or burst open.

When the temperature eventually increases and the water melts, the result is expensive water damage and flooding.

In areas of the country that rarely experience freezing temperatures, there’s little or no need to winterize or insulate plumbing. However, in cold-weather areas, where freezing temperatures are common, homeowners need to protect their pipes in the winter using winterization or insulation methods (usually both).

winterization vs insulation - frozen copper pipe burst open
If you want to keep pipes from freezing, bursting, and causing water damage to your home, either insulate the pipes or winterize your home when away for long periods of time.

What’s the difference between the two techniques? Let’s find out.

Winterization vs Insulation

What is Winterization?

Winterization is the process of turning off a water supply and removing any remaining water from pipes, drains, and plumbing fixtures in order to prevent damage from freezing and bursting.

The second step in winterization includes filling all your water-using fixtures with anti-freeze to help resist freezing. The antifreeze solution should be poured down all toilets and drains (such as toilet drains, sink drains, floor drains, and tub and shower drains).

winterization vs insulation - rv and marine antifreeze
You’ll want to use RV & Marine antifreeze as your winterizing solution for pipes, drains, and plumbing fixtures.

What is Insulation?

Unlike winterization, which is a process that takes place on the inside of the pipes, insulation is any covering that protects the outside of your pipes.

By placing foam or other insulating materials on the outside of a pipe or plumbing fixture (such as a blanket around a water heater), you are keeping the pipes from freezing by placing a barrier between the pipes and the freezing temperature.

Insulation is an easy, inexpensive method. However, it’s not as thorough or as fool-proof as winterization. But winterization is not needed if you don’t plan on leaving for an extended period of time in the coldest months.

prevent freezing pipes - bundled pipes insulation
As you can see here, insulation is different from winterization because it is placed on the exterior of the pipe to keep it from freezing.

When Should I Winterize?

You need to winterize your water supply pipes, drains, and plumbing fixtures if you leave your house unattended for long periods of time in the winter, or during freezing months. For example, if you take a winter vacation, make sure to winterize your home. If you have a vacation home that’s unattended, it should be winterized as well.

how to winterize a vacant house - isolated cabin covered in snow and ice
Any home or residence that is left unattended in the winter for a long period of time should be winterized.

When Should I Insulate?

Insulation can be added to a pipe or water heater at any time of the year. In warm months, the insulation will work to keep the water inside the pipes cool. In cold months, the insulation will keep the water inside the pipes warmer.

Our recommendation is to add insulation to potential problem areas of your house sooner than later. And if you’re reading this in the winter, you should definitely consider it immediately. You’ll notice lower heating bills as a bonus!

how to install water heater insulation blanket before and after
You should consider adding insulation to your pipes and water heaters. Insulation can help your plumbing stay at the desired temperature all year round.

Final Thoughts

The winterization vs insulation battle isn’t about which is better. Both prevent frozen pipes. How each does so is what’s important. Keep this simple rule in mind:

In cold months, winterize if you leave your residence for a long period of time. In any month, insulate your pipes and water heater for more security and lower heating bills.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

If you need help with house winterization or plumbing insulation, don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237).

1-Tom-Plumber’s certified team of plumbers and drain technicians respond immediately to any emergency plumbingdrain, or water damage problem, including excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines. Our immediate-response team is available every day and night of the year, even on holidays.

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