You know winter can be a particularly brutal time of year if you live in a cold climate. With mounds of snow, unrelenting wind gusts, and biting frost that cuts straight to the bone, winter isn’t for the faint of heart. Any cold weather connoisseur also knows it’s time to spring into action when temperatures drop to dangerously low levels.
Namely, you must prevent frozen water pipes. Frozen pipes are prone to bursting, so it’s essential to properly winterize your home to avoid costly water damage. In this guide to preventing frozen pipes this winter, we’ll discuss actionable steps you can take to keep your home protected when the weather outside is frightful.
Dangers of Frozen Pipes
Before we discuss how to prevent frozen pipes, it’s important to understand why pipe freezing is dangerous. Water expands as it freezes. Thus, frozen water puts a great deal of pressure on both metal and plastic pipes.
The expanding water can eventually cause your pipes to break—regardless of the strength of the container. A broken pipe results in a lot of interior damage to your home. You know standing water is a homeowner’s worst enemy if your basement has ever flooded.
Some pipes in your home are more likely to freeze than others. For example, exterior piping, including swimming pool supply lines, lawn sprinkler lines, and outdoor hose bibs, risk exposure to extreme cold. Water supply pipes in unheated interior areas are also prone to freezing. Common examples include basements and crawl spaces, kitchen cabinets, attics, and garages. Lastly, any pipe that runs against your home’s exterior walls is susceptible to freezing because those walls have little or no insulation.
Once you’ve identified the most vulnerable pipes in your home, it will be easier to protect them during a cold snap. The expanding water could cause these pipes to flood your home and result in major damage if you fail to take precautionary measures.
Open Doors and Cabinets
It’s time to spring into action and protect your pipes as much as possible if the weather forecast calls for winter storms. Begin by opening doors and cabinets that contain a pipe. Doing so will ensure warm air can circulate evenly throughout your home.
As mentioned before, you should pay special attention to any pipes that run against your home’s exterior walls. For instance, be sure to open the drawer or cabinet below the sink to allow the pipe to access the heat if your primary bathroom is at the back of your house.
Don’t forget to remove any household chemicals before opening the doors if you have small children or pets. Many homeowners store cleaning supplies below their kitchen or bathroom sinks, so you don’t want little hands or paws getting into potentially dangerous items.
Drip Your Faucets
Have you ever been in someone’s house during the winter months and observed a small drip emerging from their faucets? You may have been confused at first, but that tiny trickle is an important way to prevent frozen pipes. Even the smallest stream of water can prevent ice from forming.
Thus, allow your faucets served by exposed pipes to drip when the temperatures are unbearably cold. Keep in mind you don’t need to turn on faucets with connections to interior pipes because they will benefit from the heat circulation in your home. You also relieve some pipe pressure when you drip your faucets. With decreased pressure, it’s less likely that the water inside will freeze and cause the pipe to burst.
Maintain a Consistent Temperature
A guide to preventing frozen pipes this winter wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the importance of temperature control. It’s best to set your thermostat to the same temperature throughout the day and night to keep your pipes happy. You might decrease your thermostat overnight or when you’re not at home to save money on your gas bill. Although this is a good idea in normal weather, it can be harmful during bitterly cold periods.
It's important to maintain a steady temperature to prevent ice from accumulating in your pipes. Additionally, you want to avoid lowering your thermostat too much if you’ll be away for an extended period. It might be tempting to crank down the temperature to save money on your utility bill if you’re a snowbird escaping the weather for a few weeks or months. However, you run the risk of returning to a house full of frozen pipes if your thermostat is set to less than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Insulate Your Pipes
Insulating your home’s vulnerable pipes is an easy and inexpensive way to prevent them from freezing. Like opening doors and cabinets and letting your faucets drip, insulating your pipes provides another warm method of protection. You create a buffer against frigid temperatures by covering the outside of vulnerable pipes with an extra layer of foam insulation.
Focus on insulating the pipes located in unheated areas of your home, such as the basement, garage, attic, or crawl space. You can also insulate the pipes under your kitchen or bathroom sinks if the weather is uncharacteristically cold.
As mentioned above, a liberal amount of foam insulation works well. You can also wrap your pipes in heat tape, thermostat-controlled heat cables, or even foam pool noodles. Pool noodles look a lot like pipe insulators in shape and size, and luckily, they perform the same function. Closed cell foam tubing is the ideal type of pool noodle to use due to its durable construction. Plus, you can buy clamp noodles that have an opening where you can clamp the noodle around the pipe and secure it with strong duct tape.
Honor Trading Company sells a variety of regular pool noodles ideal for pipe insulation if you don’t have clamp noodles. Simply measure the length you need for the pipe and use a pocketknife or box cutter to cut the noodle to equal length. Next, cut a vertical slice down one side of the noodle to create a pipe clamp. Doing so allows you to easily place the foam noodle over your pipe, making it fit like a glove. Using a pool noodle to insulate your pipes is a simple and inexpensive way to ensure you protect your home during brutal winter weather.
The next time your local temperature is reminiscent of Antarctica, refer to these handy tips and tricks to prevent frozen pipes. With a bit of forethought and planning, you can prevent any unexpected, costly damage to your home during the winter season.