How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in Winter

Before Winter

Freezing temperatures are not only brutally uncomfortable; they also pose a significant risk to your pipes. As the water in your pipes freeze, the exponential increase in pressure can result in pipes bursting and causing serious damage to your home. These tips can keep your plumbing system safe this winter.

Pre-Winter Checklist:

  1. Insulate your pipes: Purchasing insulation designed specifically for your plumbing system is the number one way to prevent your pipes from freezing. Commonly made from fiberglass, foam, or polyethylene, pipe insulation is a simple, inexpensive fix that provides superior protection for your plumbing.
  1. Use heating tape in unheated or exterior areas of your home: Applying heating tape directly to easily accessible piping in your attic, basement, or garage assists in retaining heat. Self-monitoring heating tape features an integrated sensor that turns the appliance on and off based on whether the pipe requires more heat. Manual heating tape needs you to unplug it when the pipe becomes warm.
  1. Seal cracks, holes, or other openings: Assess your home for cracks, holes, and other openings that could allow outside air drafts to enter your home and use caulk to form a tight seal. Focus on the areas around piping, windows, door frames, cable holes, sill plates, and the areas where your home meets the foundation.

During Winter

Winter Checklist:

  1. Keep your thermostat at a consistent temperature: Some homeowners lower their thermostat at night in an attempt to cut costs on their heating bill, but this strategy can easily result in a burst pipe. Keep your thermostat settings consistent throughout the day and night and avoid sudden changes.
  1. Leave your heat running when you’re not home: If you will be leaving your house empty for an extended period of time, keep your thermostat set at 55 degrees or higher.
  1. Allow your faucets to drip: Find out which faucets are supplied by exposed piping and leave them on during especially cold temperatures. Keeping a few faucets running at a small trickle allows the running water to produce constant movement, resulting in the creation of heat and relieving the buildup of pressure.
  1. Keep interior doors open as much as possible: This encourages the steady, even distribution of heat throughout your entire home and is especially helpful during cold snaps. Many homes include pipework in or behind the cabinets of your kitchen and bathroom, so open cabinet doors periodically to allow for warm air circulation.
  1. Close garage doors: Many homes have water supply lines that run through the garage, so an open door in an already cold space will leave them even more exposed to freezing temperatures.

Vacationing During Winter

For a lot of us, when the cool weather of fall settles in and there is no question that the warm summer days are gone for another year, it is a time to travel out of town and find some sunshine. Whether it be an extended weekend trip to Southern California, or traveling out of state to a tropical paradise, getting that last dose of vitamin D before hibernating for the winter is a priority.

Any time that you are going to be away from your home for an extended period of time during the cold weather, it is important to be thoughtful about winterizing your home. Getting out of town and spending some time in the sunshine can be relaxing and rejuvenating. However, nothing steals that serenity faster than coming home to a flood from your plumbing and extensive water damage.

Before You Leave

One of the best and most efficient ways that you can protect your home while you are gone is to locate and turn off the main water shut-off valve for your home. This is the valve that cuts off the water from the city to your home, leaving all of your fixtures and appliances without water.

While this will not drain any water that is sitting in the pipes, it will prevent more water from being delivered to your plumbing system in the event of a broken pipe and flood. When you are home and this plumbing emergency occurs, you can shut off the water for that particular fixture. However, if you are away from your home, turning the main shut off valve is the quickest and easiest way to reduce the chance of extensive water damage to your home.

Some potential plumbing issues that could occur while you are on vacation include:

  • Broken Pipes: If you are going to be away from your home during the cold weather season, it is possible that freezing temperatures will come through and cause your exterior or interior plumbing to freeze. This situation typically leads to broken pipes and significant flooding. If you have turned off the main water shut off valve, you eliminate the opportunity for gallons of water to flood your home through a broken pipe.
  • Cracked Water Heater: Whether you are home or not, a standard tank water heater will continuously heat 40 to 50 gallons of water waiting to be used. If the tank of your water heater cracks and begins leaking while you are out of town, the tank will refill as the water is leaking out unless you have turned off the main water shut off valve.

These are just a couple of ways that you might be leaving your home at risk if you leave on vacation without locating and turning off the main water shut off valve. For more information, contact the local, expert plumbers at Mr. Rooter of Olympia. We are happy to answer any questions and provide you with information about how you can best protect your home from plumbing emergencies while you are away.

For more information on how to prevent bursting pipes this winter, contact the professionals at Mr. Rooter by calling us. We can inspect your home for vulnerabilities and offer recommendations for ensuring you are prepared to handle freezing Washington temperatures.

About the Author: Vincent Sposari, Mr Rooter of Olympia

Vinnie has been a trusted plumber since 1989 and a Mr. Rooter owner since 1992. With over 31 years to back him, Vinnie has experience with a wide range of plumbing related solutions and systems. He and his team specialize in plumbing repairs, drain cleaning, emergency plumbing, and more.