How to prevent frozen water pipes in your home this winter

Water expands when it freezes, putting undue pressure on a home's plumbing system.

A home’s water pipes can be a casualty of winter’s wrath, in the form of frozen pipes, especially when temperatures dip into the single-digits and lower.

The reason for this boils down to what happens when water freezes. To put it simply, it expands, so much so that the pipes can’t withstand the pressure, eventually cracking.

Rest assured you can avoid frozen pipes by taking the appropriate precautions:

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

Remove all hoses

During the summer, you may have hoses connected to your exterior for watering your lawn or garden. This lowers the amount of water pressure you have to use inside – which is more of an inconvenience than a problem – but when you don’t detach your hoses from the exterior spigot when cold temperatures arrive, it allows ice to form, thereby increasing the physical pressure on the water pipes. You can avoid this simply by removing your exterior hoses before the cold weather sets in and placing them in storage.

Keep your heat on

Aim to keep your thermostat between 60 and 65 degrees when you are away from home for an extended period of time. This temperature will help keep warm air circulating in the home and around pipes to help prevent them from freezing.

Open cabinet doors

We know, your Mom was always telling you to close the cabinet doors when you were growing up. But, when it’s cold out, keeping them open is a smart move. If temperatures dip into the single or negative numbers, opening the cabinet doors – assuming they’re in the vicinity of where the plumbing is – allows warm air to circulate, provide the atmosphere it needs to avoid seizing up.

Drip water before going to bed

“Drip the faucet so a trickle dribbles out to prevent freezing when temperature plummet.”

Typically, a leaky faucet is a sure sign that the plumber needs to be called, but when it gets cold out, a slow trickle of water prevents freezing. Before going to bed, open the faucet knobs so that water drips out. As long as water is moving through the pipes, it can’t freeze.

Close the garage doors

If your garage is attached to your house, be sure to keep the doors closed as much as possible when it’s cold out. This helps keep the heat inside so that there’s more air to work with, thereby lowering the risk of pipes freezing up. When the doors are opened, all that warm air escapes, with cold taking its place.

American Red Cross has some other information on how to prevent water pipes in the home from freezing. If you do experience frozen pipes, immediately contact your Community Office for emergency maintenance service.