The snowy winter weather presents a great opportunity for fun activities like sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. At the same time, winter weather can be tough on your home. Extremely cold conditions can cause the water lines in your home to freeze and burst, which may cause severe water damage and enduring negative effects.

When your pipes are frozen solid, you might need to hire a plumber in to resolve the issue. However, there’s a lot you can do to prevent this from happening – and even minor prevention can go a long way.

What Pipes Are at More Risk of Freezing

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

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in Your Home

Thoroughly insulating uncovered water lines is a good first step to keeping your pipes ice free. You’ll likely have access to lots of these materials from the local plumbing company, and could also already have some someplace in your home.

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

If you do decide to insulate the pipes yourself, common insulation materials for pipes include:

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Multiple plumbers, hardware stores and national retailers sell insulation – typically fiberglass, foam wraps or pipe sleeves – that you can use to cover or fit around your pipes. They are supplied in numerous lengths and sizes to fit 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 before then, try wrapping uninsulated pipes in this.
  • Towels or rags: If you aren’t able to add 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 from freezing the pipes.

Another preventative step you can try to keep pipes from becoming frozen is to fill any cracks that can allow cold air into your home. Pay close attention to window frames, which can allow in surprisingly powerful drafts. Not only should this 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 with plumbing will allow more warm air from the rest of the room to flow near the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Keeping the water flowing by letting your faucets drip even just a bit can help thwart frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors in rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more equally. This is particularly important if you struggle with a room that is frequently colder or hotter than the rest of the home.
  • Close the garage door. The exception to the open doors tip is the garage door, which you should keep closed – particularly if your water lines can be found near or under the garage.
  • Keep the heat consistent. Experts suggest setting the thermostat at a constant temperature and leaving it in place, rather than letting it get cooler at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home

When you’re in your own home, it’s not difficult to recognize when something isn't right. But what additional steps can you take to stop pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the damage from a frozen pipe may not be discovered for a while?

As with a primary residence, placing extra insulation around any exposed water lines, opening interior doors inside the home and winterizing the vacant home are the basic steps to take.

Alternative Steps to Keep Pipes from Freezing in a Vacant 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 adjust the thermostat down lower than you would if you were there. As with a primary residence, experts suggest 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 seasonal cabin or cottage, switching the water off to the house and draining the water out of the water lines is a good way to stop pipes from freezing and breaking. Try not to forget to clear the water out of any appliances, like the hot water heater, and the toilets. Confirm you get all the water from the pipes. If you're uncertain of how to clear out the water from the pipes, or don’t feel secure performing it without any help, a plumber in will be happy to step in.