How to Protect Your Pipes from Freezing

Warmer months have drawn to a close, the leaves have fallen, and you may be thinking about the coming winter. Is your home ready for the first frost? You can learn how to protect your pipes from freezing before it’s too late.

Over a quarter of a million homes experience frozen pipes each winter. Not only are frozen pipes expensive to repair, your home and contents may be ruined. In a matter of minutes, a one-eighth-inch crack can release 250 gallons of water and disrupt your life in ways you may never imagine.

Sub-zero temperatures and cold winds can wreak havoc on your water pipes if they are not protected. What can you do now to prepare for that first frost to ensure your pipes don’t freeze and burst this year?

  • Know where the main water shut off valve is to your home. This will enable you to shut the water off to the house should one of the pipes freeze and burst. The quicker you can get the water shut off, the less damage will be done. Shutting the valve off will also give you time to call the plumber for help.
  • Find out where the water pipes are located in your home. In most cases, they will be in the crawl space under your home or possibly in your attic. Once you have found exposed pipes, wrap them with insulation. The more protective insulation you can wrap around them, the less likely they are to freeze and burst.
  • In extremely cold temperatures, you may also want to use thermostatically-controlled heat cables. These can be wrapped around the insulation and should only be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions for installing them. Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. independently tests and approves these cables; be sure to use only those that have been UL approved.
  • Take the time to seal up any leaks around the pipes, which may be allowing cold air into the area where the pipes are exposed. This could mean checking around electrical wiring, which comes through the walls, dryer vents, and the pipes themselves. Use flexible insulation, caulk or a can of expandable foam insulation. By blocking as much air as possible, you will lessen the chance of the pipes bursting.
  • Disconnect and remove any garden hoses which will not be used during the winter. Turn the valve off to the spigot and drain all of the water from the faucet.
  • If you must leave a faucet active for whatever reason, remove the garden hose between uses. You can also put an insulated cap over the faucet to keep it from freezing.
  • When the temperatures are expected to get especially frigid, leave a trickle of hot and cold water running in at least one sink on an outside wall. This may be just enough to avoid freezing pipes.
  • Allow cabinet doors with uninsulated pipes under it to remain open. This will allow the warm air from the house to heat the pipes and keep the pipes from freezing.