How To Prevent Pipes From Freezing
Freezing temperatures bring the possibility that a water pipe can freeze and burst, causing water damage to your home and possessions. The pipes most likely to freeze are those nearest an uninsulated wall, door, window, attic, basement, or garage. Take these simple precautions to help reduce the risk of a burst pipe.
Keep the heat on
Keeping your thermostat at the same temperature day and night can help reduce the risk of frozen pipes. Set your thermostat to 68 degrees or above if you plan to be away from home since pipes can freeze within six hours when the outside temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Drip, drip, drip
Open the warm and cold water faucet taps in your bathroom and kitchen. A slow drip relieves pressure in the pipes and keeps them from bursting. If you have a single-level faucet, allow the warm water to drip. If the outside temperatures have been below freezing for several days, turn on faucets exposed to cold air (outside faucets or faucets on exterior walls) and let them run for several minutes.
Seal gaps with caulk or spray foam insulation around pipes when it's in an area exposed to cold air.
Heat tape is a cable that works like an electric blanket for pipes. There are two types of heating tape: constant wattage and self-limiting regulating cable. The first remains plugged in and operates when a built-in sensor turns the heat on or off as temperatures fall and rise. The second does not have an on/off switch and needs to be plugged in when heat is required. Consult a plumber to ensure you purchase the right one for your pipes. Only use one approved by an independent testing laboratory and for its intended use.
Pipes located in areas like basements or unheated attics may need extra insulation (foam or fiberglass-insulated sleeves). Consider having a professional help protect pipes in walls and ceilings using injection foam.
Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors where the pipes and the water meter are located. The warm air can help keep temperatures above freezing in those locations.
In case of an emergency
Be sure all household members know the location of the main water shut-off valve and how to close it in the event of a burst pipe. Quick action will limit damage to your home. Once the valve is closed, call a licensed plumber.
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Mary H.J. Farrell, “How to Prevent Your Pipes From Freezing,” https://www.consumerreports.org/home-maintenance-repairs/how-to-keep-pipes-from-freezing-a2277945570, (Updated September 30, 2021).
“Preventing & Thawing Frozen Pipes,” https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/winter-storm/frozen-pipes.html.
“Prevent Frozen Pipes,” https://protectyourpipes.org/frozen-pipes.