How to Prevent Frozen Pipes During the Winter

When temperatures drop during cold Utah winters, you do everything you can to stay warm, but are you doing the same for your pipes? When pipes sit in freezing conditions for too long, they can burst open, leaving you with a costly mess.

Don’t leave your pipes out in the cold this winter. By preparing before cold weather strikes, you can prevent frozen pipes and save yourself the money and hassle it brings with it.

To help get you started, let’s look at several tips on how to prevent frozen pipes.

Insulate Pipes

Pipes located in cold areas, such as basements, attics, and crawl spaces, may need extra insulation. The same goes for pipes running through exterior walls that are prone to freezing.

Molded pipe sleeves or insulating tape can wrap over all exposed areas of pipes needing protection. Run it along the entire length, making sure to include all valves and pipe fittings. This insulation works by keeping the pipe closer to the temperature of the water inside it.

For high-risk pipes needing extra protection, heat tape may be best. It works like an electric blanket, applying heat directly to the pipe to prevent it from freezing. Since this option does include a heating element, always be careful and use it according to directions.

Leave Cabinet and Interior Doors Open

Most pipes in the kitchen and bathrooms are tucked into cabinets. To prevent frozen pipes, keep the cabinet doors open, especially when the pipes are on exterior walls. This allows for more heat from the rest of the house to reach the pipes underneath and keep them warmer.

The same holds true for all interior doors in your home. By leaving them open, heat can better flow throughout the house. This helps get rid of cold spots and warms exterior walls containing pipes.

Let Faucets Drip

On really cold nights, allow faucets to flow slightly. It should be a touch more than a drip, with a flow about the size of a thin spaghetti noodle.

Allowing your faucet to stay on relieves pressure inside the pipes. When a pipe freezes, it’s actually that pressure that’ll build and cause the pipe to burst open. By releasing the pressure, you’re protecting your pipes from breaking.

Try to slightly open both the cold and hot taps on the faucet. If it’s a single-handle faucet, place it on a warm setting.

Keep the Heat On

Keeping the heating bill down during the winter is a priority for most of us. Yet, if you lower the heat too much, it could come at the cost of frozen pipes.

Always keep your heat on the same temperature both during the day and night. Even though many people prefer to lower the thermostat while they sleep, that could increase the risk of freezing pipes since the outside air temperature also drops.

If your house has rooms that are colder than others, place fans around to circulate the warm air, pushing it into rooms that need it most.

Seal up Cracks and Openings

Any little crack or crevice creates the perfect opening for cold air to sneak through. This will make a cold space even colder, exposing your pipes to a greater risk of freezing.

Seal up all openings and gaps with material such as caulk or spray foam. Pay attention to where pipes enter the house and where pipes run through the walls.

One of the biggest culprits of frozen pipes is foundation vents. Close these during the winter by sliding in Styrofoam blocks or cut wood into the vent openings. Just don’t forget to open them again in the spring to avoid dry rot.

Keep the Garage Door Closed

Many garages have water pipes running through them. If this sounds like your garage, keep the door closed as much as possible to prevent frozen pipes.

A closed garage door will ensure the area stays warmer. To help with this, it’s also a good idea to add extra insulation to the garage walls and ceiling. Your garage door also needs to be fully insulated.

Covering any windows in the garage with plastic shrink film is an inexpensive way to help keep out the cold.

Don’t Forget Sprinklers and Garden Hoses

Frozen pipes inside your home are not the only ones that can cause major damage. Hoses and pipes outside stay exposed to winter elements and need proper care as well.

Before the temperatures drop, flush out your lawn’s sprinkler system. This prevents water from sitting in irrigation pipes, freezing, then damaging the line. Always have a professional do this for you or follow manufacturer directions.

You also need to detach all garden hoses from outside faucets. Leaving them on will prevent water from draining out of the exterior faucet, which increases the risk of freezing in the line.

After you detach the hoses, turn off the valve for outside faucets. Then go back outside and turn them on to allow the faucets to drain. This gets rid of all standing water and clears exterior lines.

Protect Pipes While You’re Away

Don’t leave your pipes vulnerable to freezing temperatures when you’re away from home. Whether you’re on vacation or spending the winter elsewhere, take steps to ensure you don’t come home to busted pipes.

It’s tempting to turn the heat off to save on energy bills, but never do this. Instead, keep it on 55 degrees or higher both during the day and night.

It’s also a good idea to have a friend or family member keep an eye on the place. That way, if something happens to your heat or to the pipes, the problem can get fixed before it becomes worse.

Prevent Frozen Pipes and Protect Your Home This Winter

Don’t let a burst pipe happen to you or your wallet. By following these tips, you can prevent frozen pipes and keep the water flowing this winter season.

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