The snowy winter weather brings fun activities like sledding down the neighborhood hill or snowball fights in the front yard. At the same time, 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 severe water damage and enduring negative effects.
Once your pipes are frozen solid, you might need to hire a plumber in to handle the problem. That being said, there’s multiple things you can perform on your own to stop this from happening – and even a little prevention can go a long way.
What Pipes Are at a Higher Chance of Freezing
The pipes at the highest risk of freezing are uninsulated water lines. Prevalent 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 properly insulated are at the greatest risk.
How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in Your Home
Thoroughly insulating uncovered water lines is a solid first step to keeping your pipes safe. You’ll generally locate most of these materials from the local plumbing company, and might also already have some inside your home.
Be mindful not to wrap other flammable insulation materials where they can be caught on fire. If you don’t feel safe insulating the pipes yourself, get in touch with your local plumbing services professional in to get the job done right.
If you do prefer to insulate the pipes yourself, common insulation materials for pipes include:
- Wraps or roll insulation: Most plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers provide insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are supplied 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 going to get cold and you aren’t able to put in more insulation before then, try wrapping uninsulated pipes in this.
- Towels or rags: If you miss the opportunity to add insulation and don’t have any newspaper to use, wrapping especially vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort could be just enough to keep the cold air off the pipes.
Another preventative step you can take to prevent pipes from becoming frozen is to seal up any cracks that may allow cold air in your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can draw in surprisingly intense drafts. Not only should this help to prevent 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 under the sinks and other areas of your home with pipes will permit more warm air from the rest of the room to reach the pipes.
- Letting water drip. Letting water flow by letting your faucets move even a small amount can help prevent frozen pipes.
- Open interior doors. By opening doors between rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more equally. This is especially important if you have a room that tends to be colder or hotter than the remainder of your home.
- Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors advice is the garage door, which you should keep down – particularly if your water lines run through the garage.
- Keep the heat steady. Experts recommend setting the thermostat at a persistent temperature and leaving it there, rather than allowing it to get cooler at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.
How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home
When you’re inside a house, it’s easier to recognize when something isn't right. But what extra steps can you try to stop pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the damage from a frozen pipe may not be discovered for a while?
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 first steps to try at first.
Other Steps to Keep Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home:
- Leave the heat on. Even though you aren’t going to be there, it’s best to leave the heat on – even if you turn the thermostat down lower 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 gone for an extended period of time or are winterizing a rustic cabin or cottage, shutting the water off to the house and clearing the water out of the water lines is one way to keep pipes from freezing and bursting. Remember to clear the water out of any appliances, like the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. See to it that you empty all the water from the pipes. If you are not sure of how to drain the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable performing it without any help, a plumber in will be glad to step in.