Lots of snow and winter weather offers fun activities like sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. However, winter weather can be tough on your home. Excessively cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your home to freeze and burst, which could result in severe water damage and enduring negative effects.
Once your pipes are covered in ice, you may want to call a plumber in to resolve the issue. Nevertheless, there’s a lot you can try to keep this from happening – and even a little prevention can go a long way.
What Pipes Are at More Risk of Freezing
The pipes at the largest risk of freezing are exposed water lines. Frequent locations for uncovered pipes are within attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running under a modular home. Water lines that are not correctly insulated are at the greatest risk.
How to Stop 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 your local plumbing company, and could also already have some somewhere in your home.
Be careful not to cover other flammable insulation materials where they can be caught on fire. If you don’t feel comfortable 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 yourself, common insulation materials for pipes consist of:
- Wraps or roll insulation: Most plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers provide insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are supplied in different lengths and sizes to suit the needs of your home.
- Newspaper: To some degree, newspaper can be used for insulation. If the weather is cooling down and you aren’t able to buy insulation before then, try wrapping uninsulated pipes in this.
- Towels or rags: If you miss the opportunity to add insulation and don’t have any newspaper handy, wrapping especially vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort can be just enough to keep the cold air away from the pipes.
One other preventative step you can attempt to prevent pipes from becoming frozen is to seal up any cracks that may allow cold air inside your home. Keep an eye on the window frames, which can let in surprisingly intense drafts. Not only should this help to keep 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 areas of your home with plumbing will permit more warm air from the rest of the room to get to the pipes.
- Letting water drip. Keeping a flow of water by letting your faucets trickle even just a little can help prevent frozen pipes.
- Open interior doors. By opening doors between rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more consistently. This is especially important if you struggle with a room that tends to be 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 closed – namely if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
- Keep the heat steady. Experts recommend setting the thermostat at a uniform temperature and leaving it in place, rather than allowing it to get lower at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.
How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home
When you’re inside a house, it’s easier to know when something breaks down. But what additional steps can you attempt to keep pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the damages from a frozen pipe may not be discovered for some time?
As with the main residence, placing extra insulation around any exposed water lines, opening interior doors throughout the home and winterizing the vacant home are the best steps to attempt first.
Additional 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 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 suggest keeping the temperature at no colder than 55 degrees.
- Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be away for a long time or are winterizing a seasonal cabin or cottage, turning the water off to the house and clearing the water out of the water lines is an easy way to keep pipes from freezing and bursting. Try not to forget to clear the water out of your appliances, including the hot water heater, or the toilets. See to it that you get all the water from the pipes. If you are not sure of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel secure doing it on your own, a plumber in will be glad to help.