Lots of snow and winter weather brings a fun day sledding down a nearby hill or snowball fights in the neighbor's yard. At the same time, winter weather can be hard on your home. Excessively cold conditions can cause the water lines in your house's plumbing system to freeze and burst, which may result in severe water damage and long-lasting negative effects.

Once your pipes are covered in ice, you might need to call a plumber in to resolve the issue. Nevertheless, there’s multiple things you can perform on your own to prevent this from happening – and even just a bit of 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. Frequent locations for uncovered pipes are in attic crawlspaces, near exterior walls, in the basement or even running under a modular home. Water lines that are not appropriately insulated are at the greatest risk.

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in Your Home

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

Be careful not to wrap up other flammable insulation materials where they might light on fire. If you don’t feel safe insulating the pipes on your own, contact your local plumbing services professional in to get the job done right.

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

  • Wraps or roll insulation: Most plumbers, hardware stores and big box 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 various lengths and sizes to suit the needs of your home.
  • Newspaper: In a pinch, newspaper can be used as insulation. If the weather is cooling down and you aren’t able to buy 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 last-ditch effort can be just enough to keep the cold air away from the pipes.

Another preventative step you can attempt to prevent pipes from freezing in your home is to fill any cracks that can permit cold air into your home. Focus on the window frames, which can let in surprisingly intense drafts. This not only will help to keep 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 spaces of your home with plumbing will enable more warm air from the rest of the room to flow near the pipes.
  • Letting water drip. Letting water flow by letting your faucets drip even just a little can help avoid frozen pipes.
  • Open interior doors. By opening doors between rooms or hallways, your home can be heated more equally. This is mostly 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 down – namely if your water lines are installed under the garage.
  • Keep the heat flowing. Experts recommend setting the thermostat at a uniform temperature and leaving it alone, rather than allowing it to get cooler at night. Set it no cooler than 55 degrees.

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing in an Empty Home

When you’re inside a house, it’s easier to realize when something goes wrong. But what extra steps can you take to stop pipes from freezing in an unused home or vacation home when the damages from a frozen pipe can remain unnoticed for some time?

As with a primary residence, adding insulation to any exposed water lines, opening interior doors inside the home and winterizing the vacant home are the first steps to attempt first.

Extra Steps to Prevent 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 adjust 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 a long time or are winterizing a vacation cabin or cottage, shutting the water off to the house and emptying the water out of the water lines is one way to keep pipes from freezing and breaking. Don’t forget to drain the water out of all appliances, like the hot water heater, or the toilets. See to it that 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 confident doing it without any help, a plumber in will be happy to step in.