Lots of snow and winter weather offers fun activities like sledding down the neighborhood hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. That being said, winter weather can be hard on your home. Extremely cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your plumbing to freeze and burst, which could lead to serious water damage and long-lasting negative effects.

When your pipes are frozen, you should contact a plumber in to handle the problem. However, there’s several tasks you can try to stop this from happening – and even just a bit of prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at Risk of Freezing

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

How to Prevent Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home

Sufficiently insulating exposed water lines is a good first step to keeping your pipes free of ice. You’ll often have access to many of these materials from your local plumbing company, and might also already have some inside your home.

Be mindful not to wrap up other flammable insulation materials where they can be caught on fire. If you don’t feel comfortable insulating the pipes yourself, contact your local plumbing services professional in to handle the job.

If you do prefer to insulate the pipes on your own, popular insulation materials for pipes consist of:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Lots of plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers sell insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to cover or fit around your pipes. They are offered in different lengths and sizes to suit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: To some degree, newspaper can be used as insulation. If the weather is getting colder and you aren’t able to add insulation in time, 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 particularly 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 try to prevent pipes from being covered in ice is to seal up any cracks that may permit cold air in your home. Keep an eye on the window frames, which can allow in surprisingly intense 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 underneath the sinks and other rooms of your home that have pipes will permit more warm air from the rest of the room to flow near the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Keeping the water flowing by letting your faucets move even a small amount can help thwart frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors for rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more evenly. This is particularly important if there's 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 – especially if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
  • Keep the heat flowing. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a persistent temperature and leaving it there, rather than allowing it to get colder at night. Set it no lower than 55 degrees.

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant Home

When you’re in your own home, it’s not difficult to recognize when something goes wrong. But what additional steps can you try to stop pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the damages from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed for a while?

As with a primary residence, adding insulation to any exposed water lines, opening interior doors inside the home and winterizing the vacant home are the basic steps to attempt first.

Other Steps to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Empty 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 switch the thermostat down lower than you would if you were there. As with a primary residence, experts recommend keeping the temperature at no lower than 55 degrees.
  2. Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be out of the house for a long time or are winterizing a vacation cabin or cottage, turning the water off to the house and draining the water out of the water lines is an easy way to stop pipes from freezing and breaking. Try not to forget to clear the water out of all appliances, like the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. See to it that you clear out all the water from the pipes. If you're uncertain of how to flush the water from the pipes, or don’t feel secure handling it yourself, a plumber in will be glad to assist.