The snowy winter weather presents a great opportunity for fun activities like sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the back yard. At the same time, winter weather can be tough on your home. Severely cold conditions can cause the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which may result in serious water damage and lasting negative effects.
If your pipes are frozen, you might need to call a plumber in to resolve the issue. That being said, there’s several tasks you can do to stop this from happening – and even just a bit of prevention can go a long way.
What Pipes Are at More Risk of Freezing
The pipes at the highest risk of freezing are uncovered water lines. Prevalent locations for uncovered pipes are in 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 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 safe. You’ll generally find lots of these materials from the local plumbing company, and might also already have some inside your home.
Be careful not to cover other flammable insulation materials where they might be caught on fire. If you don’t feel comfortable insulating the pipes by yourself, contact your local plumbing services professional in to do the job.
If you do prefer to insulate the pipes yourself, common insulation materials for pipes are:
- Wraps or roll insulation: Most plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers provide insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to wrap or fit around your pipes. They are sold in different lengths and sizes to satisfy the needs of your home.
- Newspaper: To some degree, newspaper can be used as an insulator. If the weather is getting colder and you aren’t able to put in more insulation before then, 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 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.
Another preventative step you can attempt to keep pipes from being covered in ice is to seal up any cracks that may allow cold air inside your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can draw in surprisingly powerful drafts. Not only will this help to keep 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 plumbing will permit more warm air from the rest of the room to reach the pipes.
- Letting water drip. Keeping a flow of water by letting your faucets move even just a bit can help prevent frozen pipes.
- Open interior doors. By opening doors between rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more equally. This is especially important if you have 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 down – especially if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
- Keep the heat consistent. Experts encourage setting the thermostat at a uniform temperature and leaving it alone, rather than allowing it to get colder at night. Set it no colder than 55 degrees.
How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home
When you’re at home, it’s easier to know when something goes wrong. But what additional steps can you take to prevent 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, adding insulation to any exposed water lines, opening interior doors in the home and winterizing the vacant home are the basic steps to try at first.
Additional Steps to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home:
- Leave the heat on. Even though you aren't currently using the home, it’s best to keep the heat on – even if you switch the thermostat down colder than you would if you were there. As with a primary home, experts recommend keeping the temperature at no lower than 55 degrees.
- Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be away for several weeks or are winterizing a rustic cabin or cottage, shutting the water off to the house and emptying the water out of the water lines is an easy way to stop pipes from freezing and bursting. 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 empty all the water from the system. If you're uncertain of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel secure performing it yourself, a plumber in will be glad to offer support.