The snowy winter weather offers a fun day sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's 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 can lead to significant water damage and long-lasting negative effects.

Once your pipes are frozen, you should call a plumber in to fix them. That being said, there’s multiple things you can do to prevent this from happening – and even a little prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at More Risk of Freezing

The pipes at the largest risk of freezing are exposed water lines. Prevalent locations for uninsulated pipes are inside attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running under a modular home. Water lines that are not correctly insulated are at the highest risk.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in Your Home

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

Be careful not to wrap other flammable insulation materials where they might be caught on fire. If you don’t feel confident insulating the pipes by yourself, get in touch with 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: Many plumbers, hardware stores and big box retailers provide insulation – commonly fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to wrap or fit around your pipes. They are supplied in differing lengths and sizes to fit 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 in time, consider covering uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you don't have the chance 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 away from the pipes.

An additional preventative step you can attempt to stop pipes from freezing in your home is to seal any cracks that may let cold air in your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can draw in surprisingly strong drafts. Not only will this 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 underneath the sinks and other areas of your home that have pipes will enable more warm air from the rest of the room to get to the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Keeping the water flowing by letting your faucets trickle even just a bit can help avoid 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 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 – namely if your water lines are installed under the garage.
  • Keep the heat consistent. Experts recommend setting the thermostat at a uniform temperature and leaving it there, rather than letting it get colder at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.

How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home

When you’re inside a house, it’s easier to realize when something breaks down. But what additional steps can you attempt to keep pipes from freezing in a vacant home or vacation home when the damage from a frozen pipe may not be discovered for a while?

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

Additional Steps to Keep Pipes from Freezing in an Unused 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 turn the thermostat down lower than you would if you were there. As with a primary home, experts suggest keeping the temperature at no lower 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, shutting the water off to the house and clearing the water out of the water lines is an easy way to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. Don’t forget to drain the water out of any appliances, such as the hot water heater, as well as the toilets. Confirm you get all the water from the plumbing. If you're uncertain of how to drain the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable handling it on your own, a plumber in will be glad to step in.