Preventing Pipes from Freezing: DIY Tips

By: Bill Eller

With fall and colder weather comes the possibility of burst and frozen pipes. Now is the time to encourage your residents to winterize their home plumbing system and preventing pipes from freezing before inclement weather causes a home repair emergency.

If residents have frozen pipes, there’s a chance that the pressure build-up in the pipes may cause them to rupture. In that case, homeowners should turn off water at the main shutoff valve, usually at the point where the water enters the house and call a plumber immediately. No pipe is immune to freezing, and even a small crack in plumbing can spew hundreds of gallons of water, damaging the home, furniture and property. Water damage can cost thousands of dollars and cause mold to develop.

There are a number of simple DIY winterization measures that are neither expensive nor time consuming, preventing pipes from freezing. Homeowners who invest in winterization will proactively prevent minor annoyances like frozen pipes or major damage such as a burst water line.

Winterization starts outside – if a home has outdoor faucet bibs or sprinklers, these should be shut off and drained for the winter. If any water remains in the line between the faucet and the shut off valve, it may freeze. Any hoses or splitters should be removed and drained as well, and the tap should be left open to relieve pressure.

Next, any lines that are exposed should be examined. Most of these lines will be found where the water service line comes into the house, likely in a basement, utility room or garage, or beneath kitchen and bathroom sinks. These lines are the ones most likely to freeze, and possibly burst. If a pipe is exposed, it can be easily and quickly insulated with a sleeve that can be purchased at a local hardware store. Pipes should be thoroughly cleaned before they’re insulated and ends and seams secured with duct tape.

Pipes in exterior walls are a little trickier. If the home hasn’t been insulated in a decade or more – or if a homeowner isn’t sure if, or when, a home was insulated – it may be time for an energy audit. Most insulation should last 80 to 100 years, but, if it was fiberglass insulation installed more than 15 years prior or has been damaged, it may need to be replaced.

While homeowners may have to hire a professional to address insulating the walls, they can seal up drafts themselves, especially around doors and windows, with a caulk gun and weatherization strips. Something as simple and easy as replacing a door sweep can draft-proof a home, reduce their energy bill, keep their home comfortable and the water pipes flowing.

When preventing interior pipes from freezing, homeowners should insulate spaces such as attics and crawl spaces and keep their homes at or above 55 degrees. If homeowners have frozen pipes, they should open taps to relieve pressure on the pipes and apply heat by using heating tape or a space heater. Using an open flame is dangerous and can result in a house fire, which is much more hazardous than frozen pipes.

Having pipes run on a slight drip while the temperature is below freezing could help your residents avoid these issues. It’s a great life hack to help avoid frozen pipes as it keeps water flowing and helps prevent them from freezing.

Residents in your community may not have considered that, during a cold snap, plumbers may be in high demand and short supply, meaning they may be without water or partial use of their facilities for several days. Depending on how extensive the loss of water is, residents may be forced to relocate until service is restored.

You can help prevent that with the NLC Service Line Warranty Program. The Program mails educational materials to residents at no cost to the city and offers a suite of emergency home repair plans, including water service lines and in-home plumbing, at a low monthly rate. The Program has a 2,000-strong network of contractors throughout the country, all of whom have gone through extensive background and drug screenings, are licensed and insured in your local community and have high post-job customer satisfaction scores.

Instead of searching for an available plumber during the busy season, your residents could make one call to our U.S.-based call center, which is available 24/7/365, and have a local plumber dispatched to their home to fix their plumbing issue.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help give your residents peace of mind this winter.