Lots of snow and winter weather presents a great opportunity for things like sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. That being said, winter weather can be difficult on your home. Excessively cold conditions can cause the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which could result in serious water damage and long-lasting negative effects.

When your pipes are covered in ice, you might need to hire a plumber in to handle the problem. That being said, there’s several tasks you can do to keep this from happening – and even a little prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at More Risk of Freezing

The pipes at the largest risk of freezing are exposed water lines. Prevalent locations for exposed pipes are inside attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running beneath a modular home. Water lines that are not appropriately insulated are at the highest risk.

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in Your Home

Sufficiently insulating exposed water lines is a great first step to keeping your pipes ice free. You’ll likely locate many of these materials from a local plumbing company, and might also already have some inside your home.

Try not to wrap other flammable insulation materials where they can light on fire. If you don’t feel confident insulating the pipes yourself, call your local plumbing services professional in to get the job done right.

If you do choose to insulate the pipes yourself, good insulation materials for pipes include:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Lots of plumbers, hardware stores and national retailers provide insulation – commonly fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to wrap or fit around your pipes. They are sold in differing lengths and sizes to satisfy the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: To some degree, newspaper can be used as an insulator. If the weather is getting colder and you aren’t able to buy insulation soon enough, try wrapping uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you miss the opportunity to install insulation and don’t have any newspaper close by, wrapping particularly vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort can be just enough to keep the cold air from freezing the pipes.

Another preventative step you can attempt to prevent pipes from being covered in ice is to seal up any cracks that can permit cold air into your home. Focus on the window frames, which can draw in surprisingly intense drafts. This not only will help to keep your pipes from freezing, but it will have the additional 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 underneath the sinks and other areas of your home with plumbing will permit more warm air from the rest of the room to reach the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Keeping the water flowing 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 struggle with a room that tends to be colder or hotter than the rest of the home.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors tip is the garage door, which you should keep down – namely if your water lines are installed under the garage.
  • Keep the heat flowing. Experts recommend setting the thermostat at a stable temperature and leaving it in place, rather than permitting it to get cooler at night. Set it no colder than 55 degrees.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home

When you’re at home, it’s easy to recognize when something isn't right. But what extra steps can you try 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 the main residence, insulating any exposed water lines, opening interior doors throughout the home and winterizing the vacant home are the first steps to attempt first.

Added Steps to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home:

  1. Leave the heat on. Even though you won't always be home, 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 house, experts encourage keeping the temperature at no cooler than 55 degrees.
  2. Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be gone for several weeks or are winterizing a seasonal cabin or cottage, turning the water off to the house and emptying the water out of the water lines is an easy way to keep pipes from freezing and bursting open. Don’t forget to flush the water out of your appliances, such as the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. Make sure you empty all the water from the system. If you are not sure of how to drain the water from the pipes, or don’t feel secure doing it on your own, a plumber in will be glad to assist.