Snow-covered winter weather offers things like sledding down the highest hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. That being said, winter weather can be tough on your home. Excessively cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which may cause severe water damage and long-lasting negative effects.
When your pipes are frozen, you might need to hire a plumber in to resolve the issue. Nevertheless, there’s a lot you can perform on your own to keep this from happening – and even minor prevention can go a long way.
What Pipes Are at Risk of Freezing
The pipes at the largest 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 underneath a modular home. Water lines that are not appropriately insulated are at the highest 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 ice free. You’ll likely have access to lots of these materials from your local plumbing company, and may also already have some somewhere in your home.
Be careful not to cover other flammable insulation materials where they can be caught on fire. If you don’t feel confident insulating the pipes on your own, get in touch with your local plumbing services professional in to handle the job.
If you do decide to insulate the pipes yourself, popular insulation materials for pipes are:
- Wraps or roll insulation: Most plumbers, hardware stores and national retailers offer insulation – commonly fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to cover or fit around your pipes. They are offered in different lengths and sizes to satisfy the needs of your home.
- Newspaper: In a pinch, newspaper can be used for insulation. If the weather is going to get cold and you aren’t able to buy insulation in time, wrap uninsulated pipes in this.
- Towels or rags: If you aren’t able to install insulation and don’t have any newspaper to use, wrapping particularly vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort may be just enough to keep the cold air away from the pipes.
Another preventative step you can take to prevent 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 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 beneath the sinks and other areas of your home with plumbing will allow 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 just a bit can help prevent frozen pipes.
- Open interior doors. By opening doors in rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more consistently. This is particularly important if you have 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 shut – particularly if your water lines are installed under the garage.
- Keep the heat flowing. Experts encourage setting the thermostat at a uniform temperature and leaving it in place, rather than allowing it to get lower at night. Set it no colder than 55 degrees.
How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home
When you’re inside a house, it’s easier to know when something breaks down. But what added steps can you take to keep pipes from freezing in an empty home or vacation home when the consequences from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed for some time?
As with your primary residence, adding insulation to any exposed water lines, opening interior doors inside the home and winterizing the vacant home are the basic steps to try at first.
Other Steps to Keep Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant 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 colder than you would if you were there. As with a primary home, experts encourage keeping the temperature at no colder than 55 degrees.
- Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be away for a long 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 prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. Remember to clear the water out of your appliances, like the hot water heater, or the toilets. Make sure you empty all the water from the pipes. If you’re unsure of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable handling it without any help, a plumber in will be delighted to offer support.