Lots of snow and 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 difficult on your home. Severely cold conditions can cause the water lines in your plumbing to freeze and burst, which could result in serious water damage and enduring negative effects.

When your pipes are frozen solid, you might need to contact a plumber in to resolve the issue. However, there’s multiple things you can perform on your own to keep this from happening – and even minor prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at More Risk of Freezing

The pipes at the highest risk of freezing are exposed water lines. Common locations for exposed pipes are in attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running underneath a modular home. Water lines that are not properly insulated are at the greatest risk.

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in Your Home

Properly insulating exposed water lines is a solid first step to keeping your pipes free of ice. You’ll often have access to most of these materials from a local plumbing company, and could also already have some someplace in your home.

Be careful not to wrap up other flammable insulation materials where they might light on fire. If you don’t feel safe insulating the pipes by yourself, contact your local plumbing services professional in to get the job done right.

If you do choose to insulate the pipes on your own, good insulation materials for pipes include:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Multiple plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers offer insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to wrap or fit around your pipes. They are supplied in differing lengths and sizes to fit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: In a pinch, newspaper can be used for insulation. If the weather is getting colder and you aren’t able to add insulation before then, try wrapping uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you miss the opportunity to buy insulation and don’t have any newspaper handy, wrapping notably vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort can be just enough to keep the cold air off the pipes.

One other preventative step you can attempt to prevent pipes from becoming frozen is to seal any cracks that could allow cold air into your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can let in surprisingly strong drafts. Not only will this help to prevent 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 underneath the sinks and other spaces of your home with plumbing 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 drip even just a bit can help prevent frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors for rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more evenly. This is especially important if you have a room that is frequently colder or hotter than the rest of the home.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors recommendation is the garage door, which you should keep down – especially if your water lines are installed under the garage.
  • Keep the heat flowing. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a persistent temperature and leaving it in place, 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 in your own home, it’s easier to realize when something goes wrong. But what extra steps can you attempt to stop pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the consequences 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 inside the home and winterizing the vacant home are the best steps to take.

Added Steps to Keep Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant Home:

  1. 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 cooler than you would if you were there. As with a primary house, experts encourage keeping the temperature at no colder than 55 degrees.
  2. Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be gone for a long time or are winterizing a seasonal cabin or cottage, shutting the water off to the house and draining the water out of the water lines is a good way to stop pipes from freezing and bursting open. Try not to forget to clear the water out of any appliances, like the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. Confirm you get all the water from the plumbing. If you’re unsure of how to drain the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable doing it on your own, a plumber in will be happy to offer support.