Lots of snow and winter weather offers a fun day sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the back yard. That being said, winter weather can be difficult on your home. Extremely cold conditions can cause the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which may lead to serious water damage and long-lasting negative effects.
Once your pipes are covered in ice, you might need to hire a plumber in to handle the problem. Nevertheless, there’s a lot you can try to keep this from happening – and even minor prevention can go a long way.
What Pipes Are at Risk of Freezing
The pipes at the highest risk of freezing are uninsulated water lines. Frequent locations for uninsulated pipes are inside 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 highest risk.
How to Stop Pipes from Freezing Over in Your Home
Properly insulating exposed water lines is a great first step to keeping your pipes free of ice. You’ll generally locate lots of these materials from a local plumbing company, and may also already have some someplace in your home.
Be mindful not to wrap up other flammable insulation materials where they may catch fire. If you don’t feel safe insulating the pipes yourself, get in touch with your local plumbing services professional in to handle the job.
If you do decide to insulate the pipes yourself, popular insulation materials for pipes are:
- Wraps or roll insulation: Most plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers offer insulation – typically fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are offered in differing lengths and sizes to suit the needs of your home.
- Newspaper: In a pinch, newspaper can be used as insulation. If the weather is cooling down and you aren’t able to add insulation soon enough, consider covering uninsulated pipes in this.
- Towels or rags: If you don't have the chance to buy insulation and don’t have any newspaper close by, wrapping notably vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort could be just enough to keep the cold air away from the pipes.
Another preventative step you can attempt to prevent pipes from being covered in ice is to seal up any cracks that may allow cold air in your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can allow in surprisingly intense drafts. This not only will help to keep 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 spaces of your home that have pipes will permit more warm air from the rest of the room to get to the pipes.
- Letting water drip. Keeping the water flowing by letting your faucets drip 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 particularly important if you struggle with a room that is frequently colder or hotter than other rooms.
- 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 run through the garage.
- Keep the heat flowing. Experts encourage setting the thermostat at a uniform temperature and leaving it in place, rather than permitting it to get cooler at night. Set it no lower than 55 degrees.
How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant Home
When you’re in your own home, it’s easy to realize when something goes wrong. But what added steps can you try to stop pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the damage from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed for some time?
As with your primary residence, adding insulation to any exposed water lines, opening interior doors in the home and winterizing the vacant home are the best steps to try at first.
Additional Steps to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant 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 adjust the thermostat down colder than you would if you were there. As with a primary residence, experts encourage keeping the temperature at no colder than 55 degrees.
- Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be gone 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 one way to keep pipes from freezing and bursting open. Remember to drain the water out of all appliances, such as the hot water heater, or the toilets. Confirm you get all the water from the pipes. If you're uncertain of how to flush the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable performing it without any help, a plumber in will be glad to offer support.