How to Prevent Frozen Pipes
If you live in a cold climate, there’s a real possibility your pipes could freeze this winter. If ice forms in your plumbing, the resulting pressure could cause the pipes to burst, causing localized water damage and possible home flooding.
Fortunately, with a bit of prevention, you can keep your pipes free of ice this winter. Just follow these tips.
Prevent Frozen Pipes Before the Temperature Drops
- Prepare the yard: Winterize your outdoor plumbing in the fall. This involves draining and storing garden hoses, closing shut-off valves at outdoor faucets and blowing out the sprinkler system. These measures protect the most vulnerable pipes on your property.
- Seal and insulate: Add insulation to the attic, garage, crawlspace or unfinished basement if you have plumbing traveling through these areas. Look for gaps around dryer vents, electrical wiring penetrations, the sill plate in the basement and the plumbing itself. Seal these openings with caulk and expanding spray foam to keep frigid air from reaching pipes that run along exterior walls. Also, apply weatherstripping to leaky windows and doors to prevent drafts.
- Insulate exposed pipes: Special pipe insulation comes in various dimensions to meet your needs. You can also wrap a heating cable around the pipes. Simply plug in the cable to send a small amount of heat through the wire and keep the pipes ice-free all winter.
Prevent Frozen Pipes as the Temperature Drops
- Let the water drip overnight: When the forecast predicts plummeting temperatures, open a faucet located on an exterior wall so cold water trickles through the pipes all night long. This way, even if a pipe freezes, the open faucet prevents pressure from building up. As a result, you can safely thaw the pipe without worrying about water damage.
- Keep the temperature up: You may set the thermostat back at night to enjoy energy savings while you sleep, but keep the indoor temperature at 55 degrees F or higher to help prevent frozen pipes. You can also run an electric space heater in the attic, garage, crawlspace or unfinished basement if pipes run through these areas. The setting should be just warm enough to keep the space above freezing.
Prevent Frozen Pipes While Out of Town
- Keep the thermostat on: You may be tempted to turn the furnace off while you’re on vacation, but if you do, you run the risk of frozen pipes. Therefore, keep the thermostat to 55 degrees F or higher and open under-sink cabinets to promote air circulation around the pipes there.
- Shut off the main water supply: This is the best way to mitigate the risk of frozen pipes while you’re out of town. Once the main water supply is off, open a faucet and flush the toilets to rid all water from the plumbing system.