In winter, the combination of low outside temperatures and uninsulated pipes can spell disaster for your home. When water freezes inside a pipe, it expands. The pressure can build to the point that the pipe cracks. Next thing you know, the ice melts, water pours out of your pipe, and you’re staring at a big wet disaster.
The threat of frozen pipes sounds like a thief in the night: cold temperatures sneaking in and wreaking havoc on you fixtures, right under your nose. Is there anything you can actually do to prevent disaster?
Thankfully, the answer is yes. Even better, many fixes are quick and easy. You’ve probably heard recommendations to leave your faucets dripping whenever temperatures dip into the danger zone. That really does help! Any movement through the pipes — even just a trickle — helps stop water from freezing and expanding in your pipes.
But if you really want peace of mind, you’ve got to step things up a bit. We love this super-easy hack we found. It’s even recommended by the Red Cross as a way to prevent a frozen disaster! It just takes two steps:
- Make sure to set your thermostat high enough to keep the interior of your home warm. No lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit is a safe bet.
- Then, open any cabinets covering pipes, like those running to your kitchen and bathroom faucets. Do this especially any time you won’t be using the pipes for a while (overnight and while you’ll be away, for instance). Oh, and make sure to keep any cleaners or dangerous supplies stored in those cabinets out of the reach of any kids and pets.
That’s it! Why does this work? By leaving the cabinets open, you allow the warm air in your home to circulate around those pipes. Sure, it might look a little strange to leave your cabinet doors flung open, but it’s worth it not to have to deal with the mess of a burst pipe.
Simple hacks like that will generally keep your pipes safe. If you want to go the extra mile, or if super-cold temps are common in your area, you can do a little more by insulating your pipes. Head to the hardware store and look for “pipe sleeves,” “heat tape,” or “heat cable.” All of these supplies wrap around your pipes and provide additional protection from the cold. In a pinch, you can even wrap them in ¼ inch of newspaper and tape it down!
Pay attention to your weather app or station for warnings about when you need to worry about pipes freezing. Studies show that the danger zone is generally when outside temps dip to around 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, but the risk can really vary. Homes in the south, for instance, usually are built with less insulation. That means they may face frozen pipes before the mercury drops that low.
Are you prepared for Old Man Winter’s worst? Do you have other hacks that have worked well to protect your pipes?