Snow-covered winter weather brings fun activities like sledding down the highest hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. At the same time, winter weather can be hard on your home. Extremely cold conditions can cause the water lines in your plumbing to freeze and burst, which can cause serious water damage and long-lasting negative effects.
If your pipes are frozen, you might need to hire a plumber in to handle the problem. That being said, there’s several tasks you can try to stop 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 greatest risk of freezing are uninsulated water lines. Prevalent locations for exposed pipes are inside 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 greatest risk.
How to Prevent Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home
Properly insulating exposed water lines is a solid first step to keeping your pipes free of ice. You’ll generally find lots of these materials from the local plumbing company, and could also already have some somewhere in your home.
Be mindful not to wrap other flammable insulation materials where they may be caught on fire. If you don’t feel confident insulating the pipes by yourself, get in touch with your local plumbing services professional in to get the job done right.
If you do decide to insulate the pipes on your own, good insulation materials for pipes are:
- Wraps or roll insulation: Lots of plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers provide insulation – typically fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are sold in numerous lengths and sizes to fit the needs of your home.
- Newspaper: To some degree, newspaper can be used as an insulator. If the weather is cooling down and you aren’t able to add insulation before then, try wrapping uninsulated pipes in this.
- Towels or rags: If you aren’t able to install insulation and don’t have any newspaper close by, wrapping notably vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort may be just enough to keep the cold air away from the pipes.
An additional preventative step you can take to stop pipes from being covered in ice is to seal up any cracks that can permit cold air in your home. Focus on the window frames, which can allow in surprisingly intense drafts. This not only will help to stop 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 underneath the sinks and other spaces of your home that have pipes will enable 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 little can help prevent 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 struggle with a room that is generally colder or hotter than other rooms.
- Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors advice is the garage door, which you should keep shut – particularly if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
- Keep the heat flowing. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a constant temperature and leaving it there, rather than letting it get lower at night. Set it no colder than 55 degrees.
How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home
When you’re at home, it’s not difficult to know when something goes wrong. But what extra steps can you try to stop pipes from freezing in an empty home or vacation home when the consequences from a frozen pipe may not be discovered for days or even weeks?
As with your primary residence, placing extra insulation around any exposed water lines, opening interior doors inside the home and winterizing the vacant home are the basic steps to try at first.
Alternative Steps to Keep Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant Home:
- Leave the heat on. Even though you won't always be home, it’s best to keep 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 lower than 55 degrees.
- Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be out of the house for a long time or are winterizing a vacation cabin or cottage, turning the water off to the house and emptying the water out of the water lines is a good way to keep pipes from freezing and bursting. Remember to flush the water out of all appliances, such as the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. Make sure you empty all the water from the plumbing. If you're uncertain of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel confident doing it without any help, a plumber in will be happy to step in.