Lots of snow and winter weather presents a great opportunity for fun activities like sledding down the neighborhood hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. That being said, winter weather can be hard on your home. Excessively cold conditions can cause the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which can cause severe water damage and enduring negative effects.
When your pipes are frozen, you may want to contact a plumber in to fix them. However, there’s multiple things you can try 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 within attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running beneath a modular home. Water lines that are not properly insulated are at the biggest risk.
How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in Your Home
Properly insulating exposed water lines is a good first step to keeping your pipes safe. You’ll often locate most of these materials from your local plumbing company, and could also already have some someplace in your home.
Try not to wrap up other flammable insulation materials where they can catch fire. If you don’t feel comfortable insulating the pipes yourself, contact your local plumbing services professional in to get the job done right.
If you do decide to insulate the pipes by yourself, common insulation materials for pipes include:
- Wraps or roll insulation: Many 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 offered in various lengths and sizes to satisfy the needs of your home.
- Newspaper: In a pinch, newspaper can be used for insulation. If the weather is cooling down and you aren’t able to put in more insulation in time, consider covering uninsulated pipes in this.
- Towels or rags: If you miss the opportunity to install insulation and don’t have any newspaper close by, wrapping especially vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort can be just enough to keep the cold air from freezing the pipes.
One other preventative step you can take to stop pipes from becoming frozen is to fill any cracks that could allow cold air in your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can let in surprisingly powerful drafts. Not only should this help to prevent 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 under the sinks and other rooms of your home with pipes will allow more warm air from the rest of the room to flow near the pipes.
- Letting water drip. Letting water flow by letting your faucets trickle even just a little can help thwart 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 tends to be colder or hotter than the remainder of your home.
- Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors tip is the garage door, which you should keep closed – especially if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
- Keep the heat flowing. Experts encourage setting the thermostat at a persistent temperature and leaving it in place, rather than letting it get colder at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.
How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home
When you’re in your own home, it’s not difficult to realize when something isn't right. But what extra steps can you take to prevent pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the consequences from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed for days or even weeks?
As with a primary residence, adding insulation to any exposed water lines, opening interior doors throughout the home and winterizing the vacant home are the first steps to try at first.
Other Steps to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant 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 switch the thermostat down lower than you would if you were there. As with a primary house, experts suggest keeping the temperature at no colder than 55 degrees.
- Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be away for an extended period of time or are winterizing a vacation cabin or cottage, turning the water off to the house and clearing the water out of the water lines is one way to stop pipes from freezing and bursting. Don’t forget to drain the water out of your appliances, like the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. Make sure you clear out all the water from the system. If you’re unsure of how to flush the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable handling it yourself, a plumber in will be happy to help.