Snow-covered winter weather brings things like sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. At the same time, winter weather can be difficult on your home. Excessively cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your plumbing to freeze and burst, which may result in severe water damage and enduring negative effects.
Once your pipes are frozen solid, 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 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 uncovered water lines. Frequent locations for uncovered pipes are in 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
Thoroughly insulating uncovered water lines is a great first step to keeping your pipes safe. You’ll likely find many of these materials from your local plumbing company, and may also already have some someplace in your home.
Be careful not to wrap up other flammable insulation materials where they may catch 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 on your own, common insulation materials for pipes include:
- Wraps or roll insulation: Multiple plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers offer insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to cover or fit around your pipes. They are supplied in various lengths and sizes to suit 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 put in more insulation in time, try wrapping uninsulated pipes in this.
- Towels or rags: If you don't have the chance to add insulation and don’t have any newspaper close by, wrapping notably vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort could be just enough to keep the cold air off the pipes.
An additional preventative step you can try to prevent pipes from becoming frozen is to seal up any cracks that may permit cold air into your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can let in surprisingly intense drafts. Not only will this help to prevent 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 under the sinks and other spaces of your home with pipes will permit more warm air from the rest of the room to flow near the pipes.
- Letting water drip. Letting water flow by letting your faucets drip even just a little can help prevent frozen pipes.
- Open interior doors. By opening doors for rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more evenly. This is mostly important if you struggle with a room that is generally 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 shut – particularly if your water lines run through the garage.
- Keep the heat flowing. Experts recommend setting the thermostat at a uniform temperature and leaving it in place, rather than permitting it to get lower at night. Set it no lower than 55 degrees.
How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home
When you’re inside a house, it’s not difficult to recognize when something goes wrong. But what extra steps can you take to stop pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the consequences from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed for a while?
As with the main residence, placing extra insulation around any exposed water lines, opening interior doors in the home and winterizing the vacant home are the best steps to take.
Extra Steps to Stop Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant Home:
- Leave the heat on. Even though you won't always be home, it’s best to leave the heat on – even if you adjust the thermostat down cooler 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 out of the house for an extended period of time or are winterizing a seasonal cabin or cottage, turning the water off to the house and draining the water out of the water lines is a good way to keep pipes from freezing and breaking. Don’t forget to drain the water out of all appliances, like the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. See to it that you get all the water from the system. If you are not sure of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel secure performing it on your own, a plumber in will be glad to help.