How to Help Prevent Frozen Pipes

Close-up of a dripping faucetClose-up of a dripping faucet

Frozen pipes can present an invisible threat – one that you might not recognize until the weather starts to warm. By then, the water damage can be significant and costly. Fortunately, keeping your home warmer, at a consistent temperature, and better insulated can help protect your pipes from freezing this winter.

Which Pipes Are Most at Risk?

Pipes that are most exposed to the elements, including those outdoors and along the exterior walls of your home, may need extra protection during winter months. These include the following:

  • Outdoor hose hookups and faucets.
  • Swimming pool supply lines.
  • Lawn sprinkler lines.
  • Water pipes in unheated, interior locations such as basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages and kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
  • Pipes running against exterior walls with little or no insulation.

How to Help Prevent Frozen Pipes

Before winter:

  • Check your home for areas where water pipes are located in unheated or poorly insulated areas. Be sure to check your basement, attic, crawl space, garage and within cabinets containing plumbing. Hot and cold water pipes should both be insulated.
  • Products such as pipe sleeves or UL-listed heat tape or heat cable can help insulate or heat exposed water pipes.

During winter:

  • Close inside valves supplying water to outdoor faucets and hookups.
  • Open outdoor faucets to allow residual water to drain; be sure to keep them open during the cold weather months, while the water supply is turned off.
  • Keep garage doors closed to help protect water pipes located in the garage.
  • Open the doors on cabinets where plumbing is located. This can help allow warmer air to circulate around the pipes.
  • For pipes that are at risk of freezing (both hot and cold water pipes), let water drip from faucets.
  • Keep the heat in your home set at a minimum of 55 degrees.

Why is a Frozen Pipe a Concern?

When water begins to freeze, it expands. This can cause both plastic and metal pipes to burst, possibly leading to significant water damage to your home.

  • Since water expands when it freezes, it puts unwanted pressure on pipes.
  • As water freezes, the force exerted from the expansion can cause a pipe to burst, regardless of the strength of the material.
  • You may not know you have a burst pipe as the water has turned to ice. Once the temperature starts to warm and thawing begins, leaking and flooding can occur.

What Do You Do if You Have a Frozen Pipe?

  • If you have a leak, turn the water off immediately to prevent water damage and call a licensed plumber to make repairs. If your home is heated by an older steam heating system, consult with your heating professional to determine if it is safe to continue to run the heating system with the water supply turned off for your particular heating system.