Lots of snow and winter weather presents a great opportunity for a fun day sledding down the highest hill or snowball fights in the front yard. That being said, winter weather can be difficult on your home. Extremely cold conditions can cause the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which could lead to significant water damage and lasting negative effects.

When your pipes are covered in ice, you may want to contact a plumber in to fix them. However, there’s several tasks you can do to keep this from happening – and even minor prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at a Higher Chance of Freezing

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

How to Keep Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home

Sufficiently insulating exposed water lines is a great first step to keeping your pipes safe. You’ll often find many of these materials from the local plumbing company, and may also already have some inside your home.

Be careful not to wrap other flammable insulation materials where they can light on fire. If you don’t feel comfortable insulating the pipes by yourself, call your local plumbing services professional in to do the job.

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

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Multiple plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers offer insulation – usually fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to cover or fit around your pipes. They are sold in different lengths and sizes to satisfy the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: In a pinch, newspaper can be used as an insulator. If the weather is cooling down and you aren’t able to add insulation soon enough, try wrapping uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you aren’t able to add insulation and don’t have any newspaper to use, wrapping particularly vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a last-ditch effort could be just enough to keep the cold air away from the pipes.

One other preventative step you can take to prevent pipes from becoming frozen is to seal any cracks that may let cold air into your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can let in surprisingly powerful drafts. This not only will help to keep 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 beneath the sinks and other spaces of your home that have pipes will permit 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 just a little can help thwart frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors for rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more equally. This is mostly important if there's a room that is frequently colder or hotter than the remainder of your home.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors tip is the garage door, which you should keep shut – namely if your water lines are installed under the garage.
  • Keep the heat flowing. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a constant temperature and leaving it in place, rather than allowing it to get lower at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant Home

When you’re inside a house, it’s easy to realize when something breaks down. But what added steps can you attempt to keep pipes from freezing in an empty home or vacation home when the consequences from a frozen pipe may not be discovered for days or even weeks?

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

Alternative Steps to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Unused 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 adjust the thermostat down colder than you would if you were there. As with a primary residence, experts encourage keeping the temperature at no cooler 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 rustic cabin or cottage, switching 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, as well as the toilets. Confirm you clear out all the water from the plumbing. If you’re unsure of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel secure handling it yourself, a plumber in will be delighted to offer support.