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The Home Depot

Guide to Prevent Frozen Pipes

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Plumbing > Guide to Prevent Frozen Pipes
Guide to Prevent Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes are known to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs annually across the United States. The primary reasons why water pipes freeze are due to quick drop in temperature, inadequate insulation, and extremely low settings on thermostats. Since water expands when it freezes, pipes that freeze are likely to break or develop cracks. It is not necessary that pipes in cold climates alone will freeze. Those in warmer climates are also just as likely to freeze in just one cold wave, more so because they are usually not insulated.

  1. 1.Pivotal Facts

    Since water expands when it freezes, pipes that freeze are likely to break or develop cracks.

    The pipes that are most prone to freezing are the ones situated in basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets. Studies conducted by the University of Illinois have proved that wind chill can speed up the process and lead to burst water pipes. The size of the pipes and the material they are made of also play a small part in determining the speed of the freezing process.


    Homeowners are expected to be alert to the possibility of frozen pipes when the temperature touches 20° F or dips below that. Adopting some precautions can help you avoid having to deal with burst water pipes in the middle of a cold winter.

  2. 2.Advance Preparations

    Before the onset of cold weather, ensure that your water pipes are sufficiently insulated. Insulation sleeves and wrapping made of foam rubber or fiberglass are available at most hardware stores, certainly in colder states and regions. Leaks that allow cold air to enter the area where the pipes are located must be sealed off. For instance, cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations can be sealed with caulking. Garden hoses must be shut off and disconnected, and an indoor valve can be used to close the pipes and drain the water from the pipes that lead to faucets outside.

  3. 3.During Cold Weather

    The thermostat should be kept at the same temperature during the day and at night. Lowering it at night can lead to the pipes freezing since temperatures tend to drop at nights. Keep your garage doors closed in winter since water supply lines run through there. The kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors, on the other hand, should be left open frequently to allow the warm air to get there. A heat lamp maybe used to warm the pipes if required.


    Turn on the faucet during peak winter for a while so that there will be relief from the pressure that builds up. This will prevent the pipes from bursting and just a small drip can do the trick. If you have both hot and cold water coming out of a spigot, then both should be turned on equally. The dripping can be left on overnight as a precaution. To avoid unnecessary wastage of water, only those pipes that are most susceptible to freeze should be allowed to drip.

  4. 4.Going Away During Winter

    If you will not be at home during the winter, then you should prepare beforehand to safeguard your water pipelines. The thermostat should be at a minimum of 55° F. Do not compromise for the sake of lowering your electricity bills. Doing so may only lead to additional costs in the form of plumbing repairs. One drastic measure is to fully drain the water system. This is done by shutting off the main valve and letting the water run from every faucet till there is no more water coming out. This method is recommended only if you live in a region where there are concerns of a serious freeze. This could the case if you live in Maine, Minnesota, Michigan, and other northern and even some Midwest states. However, it could also happen in states such as California and Arizona if you live above 2,000 feet or so in elevation.


    Always ask a friend or neighbor to keep a watch on your home while you are away. Ask that person to periodically conduct an inspection of your home and property to determine that everything is as it should be.

  5. 5.Conclusion

    In some instances, a long term solution might be essential to deal with the issue of frozen pipes. This might involve having to move the pipelines to another place altogether (such as underground or inside). In addition to this, the amount of insulation may have to be increased to keep the pipes warm or at least from freezing.

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