Lots of snow and winter weather brings a fun day sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. At the same time, winter weather can be tough on your home. Excessively cold conditions can cause the water lines in your home to freeze and burst, which may cause severe water damage and lasting negative effects.

Once your pipes are frozen, you should hire a plumber in to fix them. That being said, there’s multiple things you can perform on your own to stop this from happening – and even a little prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at Risk of Freezing

The pipes at the highest risk of freezing are uncovered water lines. Frequent 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 appropriately insulated are at the biggest risk.

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in Your Home

Thoroughly insulating uncovered water lines is a good first step to keeping your pipes safe. You’ll generally have access to most of these materials from a local plumbing company, and may also already have some somewhere in your home.

Try not to cover 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 prefer to insulate the pipes on your own, common insulation materials for pipes are:

  • 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 wrap or fit around your pipes. They are offered in various lengths and sizes to suit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: To a decent degree, newspaper can be used as an insulator. 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 aren’t able to buy insulation and don’t have any newspaper close by, wrapping especially vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort could be just enough to keep the cold air off the pipes.

Another preventative step you can try to stop pipes from freezing in your home is to seal any cracks that can let cold air in your home. Keep an eye on the window frames, which can let in surprisingly powerful drafts. This not only will help to stop 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 areas of your home with plumbing will enable more warm air from the rest of the room to reach the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Keeping a flow of water by letting your faucets drip even a small amount can help avoid 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 recommendation is the garage door, which you should keep down – particularly if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
  • Keep the heat consistent. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a uniform temperature and leaving it in place, rather than permitting it to get colder at night. Set it no lower than 55 degrees.

How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant Home

When you’re at home, it’s not difficult to recognize when something isn't right. But what added steps can you attempt to stop pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the damages from a frozen pipe might not be discovered for days or even weeks?

As with the main residence, insulating any exposed water lines, opening interior doors throughout the home and winterizing the vacant home are the first steps to take.

Additional Steps to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home:

  1. Leave the heat on. Even though you aren’t going to be there, 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 home, 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 gone for an extended period of time or are winterizing a seasonal cabin or cottage, switching the water off to the house and draining the water out of the water lines is a good way to keep pipes from freezing and bursting open. Remember to flush the water out of your appliances, such as the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. Confirm you clear out all the water from the pipes. If you’re unsure of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel confident performing it on your own, a plumber in will be delighted to assist.