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10 Tips to Prevent Frozen Pipes This Winter

When winter arrives, the last thing you want is to wake up and find your water pipes have frozen. This happens when cold air surrounds the water pipes, causing water to freeze and the pipes to burst.

The cost of repairs and remediation can be astronomical. Why wait and pay a heavy price when simple preventive measures can forestall this problem?

We’ve compiled a list of how you can prepare and stop pipes from freezing in winter. Read on to learn what you can do and how local professionals can help install effective measures, as well.

rotting wood near pipes in a crawl space

When Do Pipes Freeze? 

Pipes start freezing when the temperatures outside get close to 32°F. That said, it is crucial to understand that even if you live in a warmer climate, your pipes are still prone to freezing since they are most likely not well insulated to handle colder temperatures. 

Pipes in the attic, basement, or crawl space of your home are likely to freeze because they run through areas that are generally colder than other parts of the house. Pay special attention to pipes in these colder parts when taking precautionary measures to prevent frozen pipes. 

10 Ways to Protect Your Home from Freezing Pipes

There are many things you can do to prepare for winter. Here’s our list of the top 10 ways to prevent your home’s pipes from freezing during the cold winter months.

1. Assess the Shape of Your Pipes 

Age is a significant factor in whether pipes will burst. Generally, older pipes are more prone to bursting. If your pipes are nearing their expiration date, it is wise that you hire a plumber to have them replaced. 

Another crucial factor to consider is pipe material. Some piping materials like PVC, copper, and galvanized steel are not flexible, making them prone to bursting during winter. We highly recommend investing in polyethylene (PEX) tubing, which is highly flexible and less likely to rupture when water freezes. 

2. Turn Off the Water to Outdoor Taps

Find the main shut-off point and turn it off to cut off the water supply to the outdoor faucets. It’s likely to be located in the ceiling of the basement or near your water meter. If not, check the area where your local water supply enters your home. Once you locate and shut off the valve, open the taps and let any residual water in your exterior plumbing lines drain away. 

3. Leave Faucets to Drip 

Many people tend to think pipes burst because of expanding water. The truth is, that pipes burst when water pressure builds up behind the pipe. Since it has no exit, the buildup will ultimately rupture the water pipes or cause them to leak from their joints and fittings. By letting your indoor faucets drip, you will slow down the freezing process and stop pressure from building on the pipes.

4. Seal Off Air Leaks

crew installing crawl space insulation panels

Make sure you seal off and caulk cold air leaks and water leaks in your home. Cover crawl space vents to stop heat loss during the winter.

5. Insulate Your Crawl Space

While the crawl space plays a significant functional role in many homes, it’s often overlooked. Ductworks and water pipes running through it are exposed to cold air, which causes freezing. Insulating this space prevents cold snaps from reaching the under-the-house area and freezing water in your pipes. Though it may seem expensive at first, crawl space insulation is really going to save you the heartache of burst pipes and water damage.

6. Cover Exposed Water Pipes

It’s not enough to cover the crawl space walls and floors. Go ahead and insulate all the water pipes that run through it as well. Pipe insulation is a cost-effective way of winterizing your pipes. Costs per linear foot are low. 

The best way to do this is to wrap them with foam insulation. Make sure you get one that matches your pipe width. Don’t forget the ones in the attic or your garage, as they are often exposed to cold air. By doing so, you can avoid water damage and high insurance deductibles.

7. Leave Cabinet Doors Open

Open the bathroom and kitchen cabinet doors to allow heated air to enter and circulate around the non-conditioned plumbing under your sink. This will slow down freezing. Make sure you remove and store away any harmful household chemicals or cleaners.

8. Shut Your Garage Doors

Never leave your garage door open, especially if water pipes run through the garage. This will prevent cold air from entering this space and freezing your pipes.

9. Turn On Your Heat 

Another thing you can do to stop freezing is to turn the heat on and leave it while you’re away. Not many people do this as they fear their heating bills will go up. The heat from the living space will radiate to your water pipes and prevent them from freezing. If you’re experiencing a polar vortex, it’s advisable that you turn your heat up a few degrees.

Once winter sets in, make sure you maintain the same temperature during the day and night. It’s easy to get tempted to set back the thermostat to slash heating costs. That’s a sure recipe for a frozen pipe. If you intend to go away during this time, ensure the temperature is at 55°F or thereabouts, not lower.

If you’re renovating your home or building a new home in an area where temperatures dip below zero, consider buying pre-insulated pipes and installing them in areas where normal pipes would ordinarily freeze, such as the crawl space or exterior walls.

10. Use Heat Cables 

Heat tape is another effective solution that helps keep water running in your home. This tape is usually plugged to a power source and applied along the length of the water pipe. It works by generating warmth that keeps your plumbing at above freezing temperatures. You can use it alone or combine it with foam insulation.

Gear Up for Winter with Help from the Pros

Want to winterize your pipes and crawl space but not sure where to start? Contact your trusted local crawl space experts at Ohio Basement Authority and request a free estimate today.

We understand how daunting winter preparation can be, and we know how to address crawl space concerns. We’ve been helping Central and Southern Ohio homeowners repair and protect their crawl spaces for 15 years. We’re eager to help you, too!

Ohio Basement Authority inspector in a crawl space
Holly Richards-Purpura

Holly Richards-Purpura

Content Writer

Holly is a Content Writer for Groundworks who has written and edited web content for the foundation services industry for almost 10 years. With a background in journalism, her passion for the written word runs deep. Holly lives in Columbus, OH, with her husband. Along with educating homeowners, she also has a big heart for the Big Apple.

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