The snowy winter weather offers fun activities like sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the front 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.

Once your pipes are frozen solid, you may want to contact a plumber in to handle the problem. That being said, there’s multiple things 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 largest risk of freezing are uncovered water lines. Common locations for exposed pipes are within 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 Prevent Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home

Properly insulating exposed water lines is a great first step to keeping your pipes safe. You’ll generally have access to lots of these materials from the local plumbing company, and might also already have some someplace in your home.

Be careful not to cover other flammable insulation materials where they might be caught on fire. If you don’t feel confident insulating the pipes by yourself, contact your local plumbing services professional in to handle the job.

If you do choose to insulate the pipes yourself, popular insulation materials for pipes include:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Most plumbers, hardware stores and large retailers offer insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to cover or fit around your pipes. They are supplied in various lengths and sizes to satisfy the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: In a pinch, newspaper can be used as insulation. If the weather is getting colder and you aren’t able to put in more insulation soon enough, try wrapping uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you miss the opportunity to add insulation and don’t have any newspaper to use, wrapping notably vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort may be just enough to keep the cold air away from the pipes.

Another preventative step you can attempt to prevent pipes from becoming frozen is to fill any cracks that could allow 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 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 with plumbing will permit more warm air from the rest of the room to get to the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Keeping a flow of water by letting your faucets trickle even just a little can help thwart frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors between rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more equally. This is mostly important if you have 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 down – especially if your water lines are installed under the garage.
  • Keep the heat consistent. Experts encourage setting the thermostat at a persistent temperature and leaving it in place, rather than permitting it to get cooler at night. Set it no colder than 55 degrees.

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home

When you’re in your own home, it’s not difficult to know when something breaks down. But what extra steps can you take to prevent pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the damage from a frozen pipe might not be discovered for days or even weeks?

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

Alternative Steps to Keep 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 leave the heat on – even if you adjust the thermostat down colder than you would if you were there. As with a primary home, 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 an extended period of time or are winterizing a seasonal cabin or cottage, turning the water off to the house and clearing the water out of the water lines is one way to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting open. Don’t forget to clear the water out of your appliances, including the hot water heater, or the toilets. See to it that you empty all the water from the system. If you're uncertain of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel confident performing it without any help, a plumber in will be delighted to step in.