Snow-covered winter weather offers fun activities like sledding down the neighborhood hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. That being said, winter weather can be difficult on your home. Severely cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your plumbing to freeze and burst, which can lead to significant water damage and long-lasting negative effects.
If your pipes are frozen, you may want to call a plumber in to fix them. However, there’s a lot you can do to keep this from happening – and even a little prevention can go a long way.
What Pipes Are at Risk of Freezing
The pipes at the greatest risk of freezing are uncovered water lines. Frequent locations for uninsulated pipes are inside attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running underneath a modular home. Water lines that are not appropriately insulated are at the biggest risk.
How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in Your Home
Sufficiently insulating exposed water lines is a great first step to keeping your pipes free of ice. You’ll likely locate lots of these materials from the local plumbing company, and could also already have some inside your home.
Be mindful not to cover other flammable insulation materials where they may be caught on fire. If you don’t feel comfortable insulating the pipes yourself, contact your local plumbing services professional in to do the job.
If you do decide to insulate the pipes by yourself, popular insulation materials for pipes consist of:
- Wraps or roll insulation: Most plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers sell insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are sold in various lengths and sizes to suit the needs of your home.
- Newspaper: To some degree, newspaper can be used for insulation. If the weather is getting colder and you aren’t able to put in more insulation in time, consider covering uninsulated pipes in this.
- Towels or rags: If you miss the opportunity to add insulation and don’t have any newspaper handy, wrapping especially vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort can be just enough to keep the cold air off the pipes.
Another preventative step you can try to stop pipes from freezing in your home is to seal up any cracks that can permit cold air in your home. Focus on the window frames, which can let in surprisingly strong drafts. Not only should this help to stop your pipes from freezing, but it will have the extra benefit of making your home more energy efficient.
Five More Ways to Keep Your Pipes from Freezing:
- Open the cabinet doors. Opening the cabinet doors under the sinks and other rooms of your home that have pipes will allow more warm air from the rest of the room to flow near the pipes.
- Letting water drip. Keeping a flow of water by letting your faucets move even a small amount can help thwart frozen pipes.
- Open interior doors. By opening doors between rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more evenly. This is especially important if you have a room that is generally colder or hotter than other rooms.
- Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors advice is the garage door, which you should keep closed – namely if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
- Keep the heat flowing. Experts encourage setting the thermostat at a uniform temperature and leaving it alone, rather than permitting it to get cooler at night. Set it no colder than 55 degrees.
How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home
When you’re in your own home, it’s easier to realize when something goes wrong. But what added steps can you take to stop pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the damage from a frozen pipe may not be discovered for days or even weeks?
As with the main residence, adding insulation to any exposed water lines, opening interior doors in the home and winterizing the vacant home are the best steps to attempt first.
Additional Steps to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home:
- Leave the heat on. Even though you aren’t going to be there, it’s best to keep the heat on – even if you adjust the thermostat down lower than you would if you were there. As with a primary residence, experts encourage keeping the temperature at no lower than 55 degrees.
- Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be out of the house for several weeks or are winterizing a rustic cabin or cottage, shutting the water off to the house and draining the water out of the water lines is an easy way to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. Don’t forget to flush the water out of all appliances, including the hot water heater, or the toilets. Make sure you empty all the water from the pipes. If you’re unsure of how to flush the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable performing it yourself, a plumber in will be happy to help.