12 Steps to Protect Your Pipes From Freezing

With the temperature dropping below 32° tonight and throughout the week you're going to want to ensure your home is safe from the elements. Keeping your pipes from freezing is actually relatively simple and you will be glad that did. Frozen pipes can cause thousands of dollars in water damage repairs. We’ve listed our 12 simple and cost-effective steps to ensure the safety of your home this winter.

How to keep your pipes from freezing:

  1. Insulate Pipes: Try an insulate all hot and cold water pipes in the crawlspaces under your house as well as in the attic, and exterior walls if they are accessible with snap-on foam insulation. Make sure foam insulation fits tightly without gaps and apply duct tape to joints in insulation, and miter foam around elbows, so joints in pipes are completely covered.
  2. Heat Pipes: Consider wrapping problematic pipes with UL-approved heat tape* that has a built-in thermostat to prevent overheating. Follow the instructions that come with heat tape carefully to keep from causing a fire hazard.
  3. Sprinkler System: Turn off your sprinkler system, and if possible blow compressed air through the irrigation lines to drain the water.
  4. Drip Faucets: Drip both hot and cold water at faucets in the kitchen and bathroom. This not only keeps water moving through the pipes but relieves built-up water pressure in the pipes if they should freeze. Set single lever faucets in the center so both hot and cold lines drip and pay special attention to pipes running in outside walls.
  5. Laundry Room: If there isn’t a faucet in the laundry room to drip, set your washing machine on warm, and start the filling cycle periodically for a few minutes to run water through the pipes.
  6. Ice maker: Set your ice maker to make ice if the ice maker water line runs under the house.
  7. Cabinets: Open cabinet doors under sinks in the kitchen and bath if the cabinets are located on exterior walls, to allow inside heat from inside your home to pipes.
  8. Garage: Keep garage door closed during extremely cold weather.
  9. Foundation: For houses that have a crawlspace, make sure the foundation is completely enclosed, and to fill any gaps in foundation walls with caulking or expanding foam. If there are foundation vents under the house try to either close them or cover them up during extremely cold weather.
  10. Garden Hose: Disconnect and drain garden hoses.
  11. Exterior Faucets: To protect the exterior faucet around your foundation, either cover faucets with insulated foam covers, cut off water to exterior faucets and open faucets to drain pipes, or install exterior faucets that cut the water supply off inside foundation walls.
  12. Check for Leaks: Once the weather has warmed up, turn off any dripping faucets as well as the ice maker, then monitor the water meter for any unseen leaks.

*Heat tapes look like electrical extension cords. But unlike all other wiring that can become hazardous if it gets hot, these tapes are specifically designed to produce heat. They are used mainly to keep water pipes from freezing, but they also prevent ice dams at gutters, downspouts and roof edges. Heat tapes are useful as well in many other situations, including exposed fuel-supply lines on mobile homes and refrigeration piping on commercial fishing boats. A modern heat tape certified to meet recognized standards by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) can be used safely to prevent freeze-ups and costly repairs.