Lots of snow and winter weather presents a great opportunity for things like sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the front yard. However, winter weather can be tough on your home. Severely cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which could result in significant water damage and long-lasting negative effects.
Once your pipes are frozen, you might need to hire a plumber in to resolve the issue. That being said, there’s multiple things you can do to stop 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 uncovered water lines. Frequent locations for uninsulated pipes are within attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running under a modular home. Water lines that are not appropriately insulated are at the highest risk.
How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in Your Home
Thoroughly insulating exposed water lines is a good first step to keeping your pipes safe. You’ll often have access to many of these materials from the local plumbing company, and may also already have some somewhere in your home.
Be mindful not to wrap up other flammable insulation materials where they may catch fire. If you don’t feel confident insulating the pipes on your own, call your local plumbing services professional in to handle the job.
If you do decide to insulate the pipes on your own, good insulation materials for pipes consist of:
- Wraps or roll insulation: Most plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers sell insulation – typically fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to wrap or fit around your pipes. They are sold in different lengths and sizes to fit the needs of your home.
- Newspaper: In a pinch, 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 don't have the chance to buy insulation and don’t have any newspaper handy, wrapping especially vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort could be just enough to keep the cold air from freezing the pipes.
Another preventative step you can try to stop pipes from freezing in your home is to seal any cracks that may let cold air inside your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can allow in surprisingly powerful drafts. Not only will this help to keep 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 beneath the sinks and other areas of your home with plumbing will enable more warm air from the rest of the room to reach the pipes.
- Letting water drip. Letting water flow by letting your faucets trickle even just a bit can help avoid frozen pipes.
- Open interior doors. By opening doors for rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more consistently. This is especially important if you struggle with a room that tends to be colder or hotter than other rooms.
- Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors tip is the garage door, which you should keep down – especially if your water lines are installed under the garage.
- Keep the heat consistent. Experts encourage setting the thermostat at a constant temperature and leaving it in place, rather than allowing it to get colder at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.
How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant Home
When you’re in your own home, it’s easier to realize when something breaks down. But what extra steps can you take to stop pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the consequences from a frozen pipe might not be discovered for some time?
As with the main residence, insulating any exposed water lines, opening interior doors in the home and winterizing the vacant home are the first steps to try at first.
Other Steps to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home:
- Leave the heat on. Even though you aren't currently using the home, it’s best to leave the heat on – even if you switch the thermostat down cooler than you would if you were there. As with a primary home, experts encourage keeping the temperature at no lower than 55 degrees.
- Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time or are winterizing a vacation cabin or cottage, shutting the water off to the house and draining the water out of the water lines is one way to keep pipes from freezing and breaking. Remember to clear the water out of any appliances, including the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. Confirm you clear out all the water from the plumbing. If you are not sure of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable handling it on your own, a plumber in will be glad to offer support.