Complete Guide on How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in Winter

September 27, 2022

The snowy winter weather presents a great opportunity for fun activities like sledding down the highest hill or snowball fights in the back yard. However, winter weather can be difficult on your home. Severely cold conditions can cause the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which can cause significant water damage and enduring negative effects.

When your pipes are covered in ice, you may want to call a plumber in Sandpoint to handle the problem. 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 highest risk of freezing are uncovered water lines. Common locations for uninsulated pipes are in 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 biggest risk.

How to Prevent Pipes from Becoming Frozen in Your Home

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

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

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

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Lots of plumbers, hardware stores and national retailers offer insulation – commonly fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can wrap or fit around your pipes. They are sold in differing 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 getting colder and you aren’t able to put in more insulation soon enough, wrap uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you aren’t able to add insulation and don’t have any newspaper to use, wrapping especially vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort may be just enough to keep the cold air away from the pipes.

An additional preventative step you can take to stop pipes from becoming frozen is to seal up any cracks that can allow cold air in your home. Focus on the window frames, which can allow in surprisingly strong drafts. This not only will help to prevent 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 under the sinks and other rooms of your home with plumbing will enable 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 move 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 evenly. This is mostly important if you have 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 are installed under the garage.
  • Keep the heat flowing. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a uniform temperature and leaving it there, rather than allowing it to get colder at night. Set it no colder than 55 degrees.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home

When you’re inside a house, it’s easier to recognize when something isn't right. 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 a primary residence, adding insulation to any exposed water lines, opening interior doors in the home and winterizing the vacant home are the best steps to take.

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 lower than you would if you were there. As with a primary residence, 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, switching the water off to the house and emptying the water out of the water lines is a good way to stop pipes from freezing and breaking. Remember to clear the water out of any appliances, like the hot water heater, and the toilets. See to it that 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 secure handling it without any help, a plumber in Sandpoint will be delighted to offer support.