4 Ways to Prevent Frozen Pipes

As the mercury drops, prevent a disaster by keeping your pipes warm and water flowing.

by Dani Yokhna
One way to protect your house's pipes from freezing is by removing garden hoses from outdoor faucets. Photo courtesy iStockphotot/Thinkstock (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy iStockphoto/Thinkstock
One way to protect your house’s pipes from freezing is by removing garden hoses from outdoor faucets.

Quickly dropping mercury can mean bad news if your home is not insulated properly. A home’s pipes will freeze at 20 degrees F, increasing the likelihood that they will burst and create a disaster in your house you more than likely don’t have time to deal with. Preventing cold outdoor air from reaching your pipes is one of the most important steps to preventing a freeze. Here are some measures you can take to keep drafts out and water flowing freely:

1. Seal air leaks.
Fill cracks in your foundation and any other access points near your pipes, such as vents, windows and exhaust, with caulk.

2. Insulate pipes.
Wrap exposed pipes with insulation, pipe sleeves, heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables to stave off cold air. Only use products approved for this purposeand follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

3. Maintain temperature.
Keep your thermostat above 55 degrees F—even if in bed or away on vacation. You can also open cabinet doors on exceptionally chilly days to encourage air circulation around pipes in the kitchen or bathroom—just make sure pets and children can’t access caustic or toxic cleaning agents.

4. Protect outdoor faucets.
Remove garden hoses to prevent water from backing up into the pipes and freezing. Drain sprinkler or irrigation supply lines per the manufacturer’s instructions—do not put antifreeze in the lines unless directed. Many garden and home-improvement stores offer insulated foam caps for covering outdoor faucets that serve as extra protection for your pipes. You can also close the valves that supply the outdoor bibs and leave the bib open to drain in the event of a freeze.

If you turn on the water and only a trickle comes out, you most likely have frozen pipes. Leave the faucet open and apply heat to the affected area until full pressure is restored. Check all faucets to make sure pipes are running properly.

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For more information on winter home maintenance, read the American Red Cross’ “Fact Sheet: Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes.”


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