6 Tips to Prevent Burst Pipes in Cold Weather

This story is part of Home TipsCNET’s collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

If you live in an area where temperatures drop below freezing, it’s important to prepare for cold weather and take preventive measures to prevent your pipes from bursting.

Burst pipes are not only annoying, but also expensive. Depending on the severity of the problem, thawing and fixing burst pipes can be expensive more than $1,000. Luckily, there are several simple strategies you can use to avoid this problem. Here are six tips to keep your pipes frost-free this winter.

1. Cover exposed pipes

When your water supply pipes are exposed, they are more prone to freezing and bursting, especially if they’re on outside walls or in unheated spaces like a basement or attic. To prevent this, it’s a good idea to protect pipes with insulation.

Covering your exposed plumbing is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to prevent pipe bursts. Your local hardware store has several different materials you can use to insulate your pipes, including foam and fiberglass insulation. You can even use newspaper to cover your exposed pipes if you live in a place that only occasionally experiences freezing temperatures.

2. Insulate unheated areas

If you run pipes through an unheated basement, attic, garage, or crawl space, the pipes won’t receive as much heat as they would in a heated bedroom or living room. By insulating the unheated areas in your home, your pipes will stay warmer and less likely to burst. Also, well-insulated houses retain heat more effectively, which is possible Save heating costs in winter.

If you’re the DIY type, you should be able to do this Add insulation yourself. Otherwise, you can hire a professional to do it. Either way, it’s an inexpensive and energy-efficient way to protect your pipes and keep your home at a comfortable temperature.

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3. Leave a faucet running on cold days

You may be surprised that something as simple as turning on a faucet can help prevent frozen pipes. But in reality, it’s one of the most effective things you can do. You don’t have to have your faucet running at full blast, but make sure you have at least a slow drip.

For the best results, choose the water tap farthest from your water source. This forces the water to flow through a large portion of your plumbing system, keeping it active and less likely to freeze. Likewise, if you have faucets that are fed by exposed pipes, it’s a good idea to let them trickle as well.

4. Open bathroom and kitchen cabinet doors

Another small (but useful) strategy for avoiding burst pipes is to open the cabinet doors under your kitchen and bathroom sinks. This way, the heated air from your house will start circulating under your cabinets and warming your pipes.

It’s especially important to open your closet doors if they’re on an outside wall of your home. As you might expect, pipes in these areas are more likely to freeze since they are closer to the cold outdoors.

5. Don’t adjust your thermostat

You may be familiar with the Department of Energy’s recommendation to set your thermostat in winter to conserve energy, but this guidance does not apply during a cold snap.

Instead, you should keep your thermostat at a constant temperature day and night. This will keep your pipes warmer and less likely to freeze and burst. Also, maintaining a constant temperature puts less strain on your oven, which is important during times of extreme cold.

6. Seal leaks and drafts

Our final tip for preventing burst pipes this winter is to patch up drafts in your home. If you have gaps or leaks between the inside and outside of your home, cold air can get in, lowering the temperature around your plumbing and causing your pipes to burst.

The good news: It’s easy to stop these leaks. First, take a quick walk around your home and look for places where air could get in, including window and door frames, electrical wiring, and dryer vents. Once you’ve identified the problem areas, use insulation or caulk to seal them.

The final result

Even if house maintenance isn’t your forte, you should be able to tackle all of these repairs in a single weekend. It may seem impractical, but these small upgrades are a small commitment that can prevent serious headaches and expensive repairs in the future.

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