Snow-covered winter weather presents a great opportunity for a fun day sledding down the neighborhood hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. That being said, winter weather can be tough on your home. Extremely cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your plumbing to freeze and burst, which can lead to serious water damage and lasting negative effects.
Once your pipes are covered in ice, you may want to call a plumber in to handle the problem. However, there’s several tasks you can try to prevent this from happening – and even minor prevention can go a long way.
What Pipes Are at a Higher Chance of Freezing
The pipes at the highest risk of freezing are exposed water lines. Frequent locations for uncovered pipes are inside 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 Keep Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home
Thoroughly insulating exposed water lines is a good first step to keeping your pipes ice free. You’ll often have access to most of these materials from a local plumbing company, and might also already have some someplace in your home.
Be careful not to wrap other flammable insulation materials where they might light on fire. If you don’t feel confident insulating the pipes on your own, contact your local plumbing services professional in to get the job done right.
If you do decide to insulate the pipes by yourself, good insulation materials for pipes include:
- Wraps or roll insulation: Most plumbers, hardware stores and national retailers sell insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to wrap or fit around your pipes. They are sold in various lengths and sizes to suit the needs of your home.
- Newspaper: To some degree, newspaper can be used as insulation. If the weather is getting colder 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 buy insulation and don’t have any newspaper to use, wrapping particularly vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort could be just enough to keep the cold air from freezing the pipes.
One other preventative step you can try to prevent pipes from becoming frozen is to fill any cracks that can allow cold air in your home. Keep an eye on the window frames, which can draw in surprisingly intense drafts. This not only will 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 beneath the sinks and other rooms of your home that have 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 move even just a little can help avoid frozen pipes.
- Open interior doors. By opening doors for 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 rest of the home.
- Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors recommendation is the garage door, which you should keep shut – particularly if your water lines are installed under the garage.
- Keep the heat consistent. Experts recommend setting the thermostat at a persistent temperature and leaving it alone, rather than allowing it to get cooler at night. Set it no lower than 55 degrees.
How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant Home
When you’re inside a house, it’s easier to know when something breaks down. But what added steps can you attempt to stop pipes from freezing in an empty home or vacation home when the damages from a frozen pipe might not be discovered for some time?
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 basic steps to attempt first.
Other Steps to Keep Pipes from Freezing in an Unused 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 lower than you would if you were there. As with a primary residence, experts recommend keeping the temperature at no cooler than 55 degrees.
- Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be away for several weeks or are winterizing a seasonal cabin or cottage, switching the water off to the house and clearing the water out of the water lines is an easy way to stop pipes from freezing and bursting open. Try not to forget to clear the water out of all appliances, such as the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. Make sure you clear out all the water from the pipes. If you are not sure of how to flush the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable handling it without any help, a plumber in will be delighted to assist.