The snowy winter weather brings a fun day sledding down the neighborhood hill or snowball fights in the back yard. That being said, winter weather can be tough on your home. Severely cold conditions can cause the water lines in your home to freeze and burst, which could cause severe water damage and long-lasting negative effects.
When your pipes are frozen solid, you may want to contact a plumber in to resolve the issue. Nevertheless, there’s a lot you can do to prevent this from happening – and even a little prevention can go a long way.
What Pipes Are at Risk of Freezing
The pipes at the largest risk of freezing are exposed water lines. Common locations for uncovered pipes are in attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running under a modular home. Water lines that are not properly insulated are at the biggest risk.
How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing Over in Your Home
Thoroughly insulating exposed water lines is a good first step to keeping your pipes free of ice. You’ll generally find many of these materials from a local plumbing company, and might also already have some inside your home.
Try not to wrap other flammable insulation materials where they might be caught on fire. If you don’t feel confident insulating the pipes yourself, call your local plumbing services professional in to do the job.
If you do prefer to insulate the pipes by yourself, common insulation materials for pipes consist of:
- Wraps or roll insulation: Multiple plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers provide insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are offered in different lengths and sizes to satisfy the needs of your home.
- Newspaper: To a decent degree, newspaper can be used for insulation. If the weather is getting colder and you aren’t able to put in more insulation soon enough, wrap uninsulated pipes in this.
- Towels or rags: If you don't have the chance 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.
An additional preventative step you can take to prevent pipes from becoming frozen is to fill any cracks that can permit cold air inside your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can allow in surprisingly powerful drafts. This not only will help to stop 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 underneath the sinks and other rooms of your home with plumbing will enable 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 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 particularly important if there's a room that is frequently colder or hotter than the remainder of your home.
- 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 are installed under the garage.
- Keep the heat flowing. Experts recommend setting the thermostat at a stable temperature and leaving it there, rather than permitting it to get colder at night. Set it no lower than 55 degrees.
How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home
When you’re in your own home, it’s easier to realize when something breaks down. But what additional steps can you try to keep pipes from freezing in an empty home or vacation home when the consequences from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed for some time?
As with a primary residence, placing extra insulation around any exposed water lines, opening interior doors in the home and winterizing the vacant home are the first steps to take.
Added Steps to Keep 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 cooler than you would if you were there. As with a primary home, experts encourage 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 vacation cabin or cottage, switching the water off to the house and clearing the water out of the water lines is an easy way to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. Don’t forget to clear the water out of any appliances, including the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. Make sure you clear out all the water from the pipes. If you're uncertain of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable doing it without any help, a plumber in will be glad to assist.