The snowy winter weather offers fun activities like sledding down the neighborhood hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. However, winter weather can be hard on your home. Excessively cold conditions can cause the water lines in your home to freeze and burst, which could cause serious water damage and lasting negative effects.
When your pipes are frozen solid, you might need to contact a plumber in to handle the problem. That being said, there’s multiple things you can attempt to prevent this from happening – and even minor prevention can go a long way.
What Pipes Are at More Risk of Freezing
The pipes at the largest risk of freezing are uninsulated water lines. Prevalent locations for uninsulated pipes are in attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running under a modular home. Water lines that are not correctly insulated are at the greatest risk.
How to Prevent Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home
Sufficiently insulating uncovered water lines is a good first step to keeping your pipes safe. You’ll often locate many of these materials from a local plumbing company, and could also already have some somewhere in your home.
Be mindful not to cover other flammable insulation materials where they can light on fire. If you don’t feel comfortable insulating the pipes yourself, contact your local plumbing services professional in to handle the job.
If you do choose to insulate the pipes on your own, popular insulation materials for pipes include:
- Wraps or roll insulation: Lots of plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers offer insulation – commonly fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are sold in various lengths and sizes to satisfy the needs of your home.
- Newspaper: To a decent degree, newspaper can be used as an insulator. 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 don't have the chance to add insulation and don’t have any newspaper to use, wrapping particularly vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort may be just enough to keep the cold air from freezing the pipes.
An additional preventative step you can take to keep pipes from freezing in your home is to seal up any cracks that can let cold air into your home. Focus on the window frames, which can allow in surprisingly intense drafts. This not only will help to stop your pipes from freezing, but it will have the added 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 beneath the sinks and other spaces of your home that have pipes will allow more warm air from the rest of the room to reach the pipes.
- Letting water drip. Keeping a flow of water by letting your faucets trickle even just a little can help prevent frozen pipes.
- Open interior doors. By opening doors in rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more equally. This is mostly important if you have a room that is generally colder or hotter than the rest of the home.
- Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors recommendation is the garage door, which you should keep closed – particularly if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
- Keep the heat flowing. Experts recommend setting the thermostat at a constant temperature and leaving it there, rather than letting it get lower at night. Set it no colder than 55 degrees.
How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home
When you’re in your own home, it’s not difficult to recognize when something breaks down. But what additional steps can you attempt to stop pipes from freezing in an empty home or vacation home when the damages from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed for days or even weeks?
As with a primary residence, insulating any exposed water lines, opening interior doors inside the home and winterizing the vacant home are the basic steps to take.
Added Steps to Keep Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home:
- Leave the heat on. Even though you aren't currently using the home, it’s best to keep the heat on – even if you turn the thermostat down cooler than you would if you were there. As with a primary residence, experts recommend 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 an extended period of time or are winterizing a vacation cabin or cottage, turning the water off to the house and draining the water out of the water lines is a good way to stop pipes from freezing and breaking. Don’t forget to flush the water out of any appliances, such as the hot water heater, and the toilets. Confirm you get all the water from the system. If you’re unsure of how to drain the water from the pipes, or don’t feel confident handling it on your own, a plumber in will be delighted to step in.