When the temperature drops to freezing, the water in your pipes could easily turn to ice, and these ice blockages could cause increased water pressure and potentially lead to burst water pipes. 

Breaks can occur anywhere—not just around the location of the ice blockage, but at any place in your plumbing system with excessive pressure. Burst pipes can interrupt the proper flow of your plumbing system, leaving you without water until the break is fixed. 

To avoid an unexpected plumbing bill and a disturbance in the flow of water in your home, follow these steps to prevent your pipes from freezing:

1. Keep exposed pipes away from areas with freezing temperatures.

If you’re building a new home, route exposed pipes through heated areas of your home instead of places like the attic, basement, crawl space, or garage. For existing homes, talk to a plumber about rerouting exposed pipes that are susceptible to freezing temperatures.

2. Insulate exposed pipes.

If you don’t want to or can’t reroute your existing pipes, you can have them insulated with foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves, which will help keep them warmer so that water doesn’t freeze.

3. Seal cracks and holes on outside walls.

Check the walls where pipes come through for air leaks. Use caulk or insulation to seal any leaks. Also, insulate any unheated areas of your home that house plumbing pipes.

4. Drain water from pipes leading to outside areas.

If you have a swimming pool, water sprinkler system, or outdoor faucets, drain and shut off the water supply to your outside plumbing. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions for directions, or call a professional to winterize your system.

5. Install freezeproof sill cocks.

Use freezeproof sill cocks—particular kinds of outdoor faucets—if you live in an area prone to subfreezing temperatures. 

Their design is such that in the winter, you can avoid having to turn off the water supply to your outside faucet—the valve in the sill cock stops the water at a point in the pipe that’s still inside your house, where it’s warmer and safe from freezing temperatures.

6. Open the cabinet doors under kitchen and bathroom sinks.

Allow the heat from your home to circulate around the pipes to keep them warm when temperatures drop.

7. Run faucets during extremely low temperatures.

When the weather drops to near-freezing temperatures, allow your faucets to drip. Even a small flow of water will relieve the pressure that could gather from ice blockages. If your pipes were to freeze, a continuous stream of water can help avoid a burst pipe by eliminating the buildup of excess pressure. 

This may raise your water bill, so only drip water from fixtures connected to exposed pipes that are vulnerable to freezing. Turn both the hot and cold water on if necessary, and create a very slow, steady drip.

8. Keep the heat at 55 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

If you leave your home for an extended period, keep your heat at 55 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. You may have a slightly higher heating bill, but your pipes will stay warm and functioning.

If your pipes are defenseless to freezing temperatures, using these tips can help prevent unexpected repairs. Incorporate them into your winterizing regimen to keep your water flowing all winter long.

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