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

Once your pipes are frozen solid, you may want to hire a plumber in to resolve the issue. That being said, there’s a lot you can perform on your own to keep this from happening – and even minor 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. Prevalent 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 biggest risk.

How to Keep Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home

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

Try not to cover other flammable insulation materials where they can light on fire. If you don’t feel confident insulating the pipes yourself, get in touch with your local plumbing services professional in to handle the job.

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

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Many plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers sell insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to cover or fit around your pipes. They are supplied in numerous 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 in time, wrap uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you don't have the chance to install insulation and don’t have any newspaper to use, wrapping particularly vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort may be just enough to keep the cold air from freezing the pipes.

Another preventative step you can try to stop pipes from being covered in ice is to fill any cracks that could let cold air inside your home. Focus on the window frames, which can draw in surprisingly strong drafts. Not only should this help to keep 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 pipes will enable more warm air from the rest of the room to flow near the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Keeping a flow of water by letting your faucets drip even just a bit can help thwart frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors between rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more evenly. This is particularly important if there's a room that is generally 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 run through the garage.
  • Keep the heat steady. Experts encourage setting the thermostat at a constant temperature and leaving it in place, rather than letting it get colder at night. Set it no colder than 55 degrees.

How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home

When you’re at home, it’s easy to realize when something breaks down. But what additional steps can you take 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 your primary residence, adding insulation to any exposed water lines, opening interior doors inside the home and winterizing the vacant home are the best steps to attempt first.

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

  1. Leave the heat on. Even though you won't always be home, it’s best to leave the heat on – even if you switch the thermostat down lower 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 away for a long time or are winterizing a rustic cabin or cottage, switching the water off to the house and clearing the water out of the water lines is an easy way to stop pipes from freezing and bursting. Try not to forget to clear the water out of all appliances, such as the hot water heater, and the toilets. Make sure you get all the water from the plumbing. If you are not sure of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable doing it on your own, a plumber in will be glad to assist.