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Prevent pipes from freezing with these 6 tips

This story is part Tips for the houseCNET’s collection of handy tips for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

As the northern hemisphere heads into winter, some homeowners are just months away from having a house flooded from burst pipes. They are the cause of approximately one claim in 60 in home insurance.

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The good news is that you can take steps to ensure this doesn’t happen to you when sub-freezing temperatures occur. This can save you a lot of hassle and save you more than $1,000 in repair costs.

We have other tips to keep you warm and save you money during the winter. Learn to save money on water heating costs, stay warm with your ceiling fan and adjust your thermostat for comfort and savings.

Cover exposed pipes

When your water supply pipes are exposed, they are more likely to freeze and burst, especially if they are located along exterior walls or in unheated spaces like a basement or attic. To prevent this, it’s a good idea to protect the pipes with insulation.

Covering your exposed plumbing is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to prevent burst pipes. Your local hardware store will have 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 where freezing temperatures only occasionally occur.

Isolate unheated areas

When plumbing runs through an unheated basement, attic, garage, or crawl space, the pipes don’t receive as much heat as they would in a heated bedroom or living room. By insulating unheated areas of your home, your pipes will stay warmer and be less likely to burst. In addition, well-insulated homes contain heat more efficiently, which can save you money on winter heating bills.

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


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Keep a faucet open on cold days

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

For best results, choose the faucet which is farthest from your water source. This will force water through much of your plumbing system, keeping it active and less likely to freeze. Likewise, if you have faucets that are serviced by exposed pipes, it’s a good idea to let them run as well.

Open bathroom and kitchen cabinet doors

Another small (but useful) strategy to avoid burst pipes is to open the cabinet doors under your kitchen and bathroom sinks. By doing so, the heated air from your home will begin to circulate under your cabinets and warm your pipes.

It is especially important to open your cabinet doors if they are located along an exterior wall of your home. As you’d expect, pipes in these areas are more likely to freeze because they’re closer to the cold outside.

Don’t adjust your thermostat

You may be familiar with the Department of Energy’s recommendation to adjust your thermostat during the winter to save energy, but these tips do not apply during a cold snap.

Instead, you should keep your thermostat at a constant temperature throughout the day and night. This will help your pipes stay warmer, making them less likely to freeze and burst. Plus, maintaining a consistent temperature will put less stress on your furnacewhich is important during very cold periods.

Seal leaks and drafty areas

Our final tip for avoiding burst pipes this winter is to seal drafty areas in your home. When you have gaps or leaks between the inside and outside of your home, it’s possible for cold air to enter, lowering the temperature around your plumbing and causing your pipes to burst.

The good news: sealing those leaks is easy. Start by taking a quick walk around your home and looking for all the places where air might get in, including window and door frames, electrical wiring, and dryer vents. Once you identify the problem areas, use insulation or caulk to seal them.

The bottom line

Even if home maintenance isn’t your forte, you should be able to complete all of these repairs in a single weekend. It may seem inconvenient, but making those minor upgrades is a small commitment that can save you serious headaches and costly repairs in the future.

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