Snow-covered winter weather brings fun activities like sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the back yard. At the same time, winter weather can be difficult on your home. Extremely cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your home to freeze and burst, which can lead to significant water damage and enduring negative effects.

Once your pipes are frozen, you might need to call a plumber in to handle the problem. Nevertheless, there’s a lot you can try 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 exposed water lines. Common locations for exposed pipes are inside 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 Stop Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home

Sufficiently insulating uncovered water lines is a solid first step to keeping your pipes safe. You’ll likely find lots of these materials from your local plumbing company, and may also already have some somewhere in your home.

Be careful not to wrap other flammable insulation materials where they might catch fire. If you don’t feel safe insulating the pipes by yourself, call your local plumbing services professional in to handle the job.

If you do choose to insulate the pipes by yourself, good insulation materials for pipes are:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Lots of plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers provide insulation – typically fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to wrap or fit around your pipes. They are sold in various lengths and sizes to suit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: To some degree, newspaper can be used as insulation. If the weather is going to get cold and you aren’t able to put in more insulation soon enough, 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 notably vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort can be just enough to keep the cold air off the pipes.

Another preventative step you can attempt to keep pipes from becoming frozen is to fill any cracks that could permit cold air inside your home. Keep an eye on the window frames, which can draw in surprisingly powerful 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 underneath the sinks and other areas of your home with plumbing 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 drip 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 particularly 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 advice is the garage door, which you should keep down – namely if your water lines run through the garage.
  • Keep the heat steady. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a persistent temperature and leaving it in place, rather than allowing it to get cooler at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home

When you’re inside a house, it’s easier to know when something goes wrong. But what added steps can you take to prevent pipes from freezing in an empty home or vacation home when the damages from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed for days or even weeks?

As with the main residence, placing extra insulation around any exposed water lines, opening interior doors throughout the home and winterizing the vacant home are the first steps to try at first.

Other Steps to Stop 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 lower than you would if you were there. As with a primary residence, experts encourage keeping the temperature at no lower 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 vacation cabin or cottage, shutting the water off to the house and clearing the water out of the water lines is one way to stop pipes from freezing and bursting open. Don’t forget to drain the water out of all appliances, like the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. See to it that you get all the water from the pipes. If you’re unsure of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel secure handling it on your own, a plumber in will be delighted to help.