Snow-covered winter weather offers things like sledding down the highest hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. That being said, winter weather can be difficult on your home. Extremely cold conditions can cause the water lines in your plumbing to freeze and burst, which could cause severe water damage and long-lasting negative effects.
If your pipes are frozen, you should hire a plumber in to fix them. That being said, there’s multiple things you can perform on your own 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 uncovered water lines. Frequent 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 correctly insulated are at the highest risk.
How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in Your Home
Properly insulating exposed water lines is a good first step to keeping your pipes ice free. You’ll generally find many of these materials from your local plumbing company, and could also already have some someplace in your home.
Be careful not to cover other flammable insulation materials where they can catch fire. If you don’t feel comfortable insulating the pipes on your own, call your local plumbing services professional in to handle the job.
If you do choose to insulate the pipes on your own, popular insulation materials for pipes include:
- Wraps or roll insulation: Most plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers provide insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to cover or fit around your pipes. They are supplied in different lengths and sizes to suit the needs of your home.
- Newspaper: To a decent degree, newspaper can be used as insulation. If the weather is cooling down and you aren’t able to put in more insulation soon enough, consider covering uninsulated pipes in this.
- Towels or rags: If you aren’t able to add insulation and don’t have any newspaper handy, wrapping particularly vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort may be just enough to keep the cold air off the pipes.
One other preventative step you can try to keep pipes from being covered in ice is to seal up any cracks that could allow cold air into your home. Focus on the window frames, which can let in surprisingly powerful drafts. Not only will this 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 under the sinks and other areas of your home with 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 trickle even a small amount can help avoid frozen pipes.
- Open interior doors. By opening doors between rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more equally. This is particularly 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 tip is the garage door, which you should keep down – namely if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
- Keep the heat flowing. Experts recommend setting the thermostat at a persistent temperature and leaving it in place, rather than letting it get lower at night. Set it no lower than 55 degrees.
How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home
When you’re in your own home, it’s easy to realize when something breaks down. But what extra steps can you attempt to prevent pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the consequences from a frozen pipe may not be discovered 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 first steps to try at first.
Extra 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 adjust the thermostat down cooler than you would if you were there. As with a primary residence, experts encourage keeping the temperature at no cooler 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 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 breaking. Try not to forget to flush the water out of any appliances, including the hot water heater, or the toilets. Confirm you empty all the water from the pipes. If you’re unsure of how to drain the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable doing it without any help, a plumber in will be delighted to step in.