Prevent Your Pipes from Freezing
When temperatures drop, pipes can freeze and burst, causing thousands of dollars in damage. Here’s how to avoid this costly—and messy—problem.
You could spend thousands to repair water damage caused by a frozen pipe. Save your checkbook—and your property—from the trouble.
Identify Freeze Risks
Plumbing runs throughout your home, but certain areas have a higher risk of freezing:
- Outdoor plumbing: This includes garden hose spigots, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines and other pipes that are exposed to low temperatures.
- Unheated areas: Check crawlspaces and attics for under-insulated pipes or cold drafts. Pipes in your basement and garage — if those rooms are unheated — can also be vulnerable to freezing.
- Exterior walls: Pipes that run along outside walls can freeze if they aren’t well insulated.
Also, pipes are more susceptible to freezing at certain times:
- Extended absences: Leave your heat on and set it no lower than 55 degrees if you plan to be away from your home for a few days. Before longer absences, shut off your main water supply and drain the system.
- Power outages: When you lose power, your home’s temperature may drop. To prevent pipes from freezing, let cold water faucets run at a trickle to keep the water moving. Never use automotive antifreeze to combat freezing, as it could contaminate drinking water.
- Unexpected temperature drops: Even areas with temperate winters can experience unexpected cold snaps—and plumbing in those areas may not be cold-resistant. If you live in a warmer climate, it’s still important to check the condition of your pipes and insulate them before winter.
Take Preventive Measures
Insulating pipes can help reduce their risk of freezing, but you can take additional measures before winter hits:
- Disconnect, drain and store garden hoses inside.
- Caulk cold-air drafts near pipes.
- Pad unheated areas, such as attics and crawlspaces, with extra insulation, if needed.
Even if you’ve completed the necessary prep work, you can still be caught off guard if temperatures suddenly drop. Here are additional precautions you can take:
- Set your thermostat to a constant temperature throughout the day and night.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to circulate warm air around plumbing.
- If there are pipes in the garage, keep garage doors closed.
- Know what to do in the event of frozen pipes.