Lots of snow and winter weather presents a great opportunity for things like sledding down the neighborhood hill or snowball fights in the back yard. That being said, winter weather can be hard on your home. Extremely cold conditions can encourage the water lines in your home to freeze and burst, which could lead to serious water damage and long-lasting negative effects.

When your pipes are frozen, you may want to hire a plumber in to fix them. However, there’s several tasks you can try to stop 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 uninsulated water lines. Prevalent locations for exposed pipes are in attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running under a modular home. Water lines that are not properly insulated are at the biggest risk.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in Your Home

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

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

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

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Most plumbers, hardware stores and national retailers offer insulation – typically fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to cover or fit around your pipes. They are sold in numerous lengths and sizes to satisfy the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: To a decent 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 don't have the chance to add insulation and don’t have any newspaper close by, wrapping notably vulnerable pipes with towels or clean rags as a final effort could be just enough to keep the cold air off the pipes.

Another preventative step you can take to stop pipes from freezing in your home is to fill any cracks that could allow cold air into 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 additional 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 rooms of your home with pipes will allow 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 a small amount can help avoid frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors for rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more evenly. This is especially important if you have a room that tends to be colder or hotter than the rest of the home.
  • 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 can be found near or under the garage.
  • Keep the heat consistent. Experts recommend setting the thermostat at a stable temperature and leaving it there, rather than allowing it to get cooler at night. Set it no lower than 55 degrees.

How to Stop Pipes from Freezing in an Unused Home

When you’re inside a house, it’s easy to realize when something breaks down. But what additional steps can you try to prevent pipes from freezing in an empty home or vacation home when the damages from a frozen pipe might not be discovered for a while?

As with the main 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.

Additional Steps to Stop Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant Home:

  1. Leave the heat on. Even though you won't always be home, it’s best to keep the heat on – even if you switch the thermostat down cooler than you would if you were there. As with a primary house, experts recommend keeping the temperature at no cooler than 55 degrees.
  2. Shut water off and drain the lines. If you’re going to be away for an extended period of 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 an easy way to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting open. Remember to flush the water out of any appliances, such as the hot water heater, or the toilets. See to it that you get all the water from the system. If you’re unsure of how to flush the water from the pipes, or don’t feel comfortable performing it on your own, a plumber in will be glad to step in.