From skiing to ice skating to building snowmen to drinking hot cocoa, cold weather is great for many things.
But when temperatures drop below freezing in the winter, a lack of preparation for cold weather can cause major damage to homes, not only causing headaches for homeowners but also costing them thousands of dollars in repairs.
Here’s how to prepare your home for cold weather and prevent your pipes from bursting.
Check your local weather forecast daily
The National Weather Service issues freeze warnings.
To find out when temperatures are likely to drop below freezing, visit the weather service’s website at Weather.gov.
USA TODAY also tracks weather alerts and alerts nationwide, which you can check here at any time.
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Thermostats are important
“Preparation is the key to preventing frozen pipes,” Brycen Sperlich, owner of Prime Drain Cleaning and Plumbing, told USA TODAY.
“Open cabinets and vanities to heat pipes,” said Sperlich, whose company is based in Middle Tennessee. “It’s something I’ve done before when the temperatures drop into the sub-zero range. Open a closet to allow more heat to reach the pipes.”
He also recommends not setting home thermostats lower than 60 degrees.
How to properly drain your taps
Water expands when it freezes, Sperlich said, so people should drain indoor surfaces when temperatures drop below 32 degrees.
Just make sure the faucet is furthest away from your main valve.
“You don’t have to drain them all,” he said. “One or two is fine.”
Which pipes freeze the most?
According to the Red Cross, the most common ways pipes freeze in homes are:
- Pipes exposed to “severe cold,” including outdoor hose connections, swimming pool utility lines, and water sprinkler lines. (If you have pool or sprinkler supply lines, don’t forget to drain those too.)
- Water supply lines in unheated indoor areas, including basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages and closets.
- Those that run into exterior walls that “have little or no insulation.”
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How do I find my main water shutoff valve?
According to a fact sheet from protectedyourpipes.org, look for the main valve where the water supply enters your home. Usually it is located in the basement, garage or in a concrete metal box near your street.
Mark the valve with bright paint or tape so you can find it when it’s dark.
If the valve is outside, lift the cover and turn off the water with an open-end wrench.
“Some older homes don’t have (a main faucet). “So if you don’t have one, it’s important to know where your meter is,” Sperlich said.
Before the temperature drops below 32 degrees, outdoor taps attached to houses should be opened to allow water to drain.
They should also be covered.
Faucet covers are relatively inexpensive and available online at retailers such as Amazon, Walmart and various hardware stores such as Home Depot or Lowes.
They are quick and easy to install. In financial distress? Cover one with a thick, waterproof, insulated item such as a glove or wool sock, Sperlich said.
What to do if your household pipes burst?
According to a fact sheet from protectedyourpipes.org, if pipes burst in a home, turn off the main faucet immediately and call a licensed plumber.
According to Thumbtack, an American home services website, the national average cost to repair a burst pipe is between $400 and $1,500. Pinhole leaks cost between $150 and $2,540, and thawing broken pipes costs about $200.
A plumber’s hourly rates for pipe repairs range from $55 to $195 per hour, but some plumbers who bill by the hour charge extra for emergency calls or outside of normal business hours.
Get multiple estimates
When looking for a plumber, make sure you get multiple estimates. They are usually free, but it depends on the company.
Thumbtack also recommends making sure you hire a professional, licensed plumber.
“Not only does this ensure you are hiring a qualified, experienced professional, it can also protect you if something goes wrong,” the company says.
Natalie Neysa Alund is a senior reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at [email protected] and follow her on X @nataliealund.