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How to prevent pipes from freezing

As autumn gives way to winter water temperatures plummet. In some areas lakes freeze over, frost forms and snow falls. This all makes for picturesque, seasonal scenery, but it can wreak havoc with the plumbing in our homes.

As water freezes, it also expands – and when it’s within a pipe this can have serious and costly consequences. Your pipes cannot expand, so if frozen water forms within it can put such pressure on them that they can split and burst open. This means potentially serious flood damage. Imagine coming back from your festive holidays to find a burst pipe in your home – one that hasn’t been dealt with while you’ve been away. Happily, there are ways to anticipate and prevent pipes from freezing, so you can enjoy the holiday season, whether you’re at home or away, with peace of mind. Here are some tips.

Keep the heating on 

It may seem ridiculous, particularly if you are away from home for the holidays, but keeping your heating running is one of the best ways to prevent pipes from freezing. You should also keep the heating running at the same temperature, whether it’s day or night, and if you are away don’t set it lower than 13 degrees Celsius (55 Fahrenheit). This should keep enough heat flowing through the pipes to prevent freezing over the entire cold season. Sure, your heating bill may be slightly higher (especially if you’re not in the house) but compared to the cost of repairing a damaged pipe (and repairing/redecorating a water-damaged home) it is peanuts. 

Check your pipes and fittings

It’s worth making sure your pipes are in good condition in advance of winter. Make sure that all connections are solid and not leaking, and check all valves are modern and fully functional. Call in a professional if you’re not sure what you’re doing – a plumber might seem like a costly outlay, but again think of it as a safehold against extremely costly repairs. It’s also possible to use valves to isolate pipes so that no water is stored in them. This is for areas where the temperature falls seriously low, making it unsafe not to have dry pipes. 

Insulate pipes

Pipes can be fitted with foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves to help decrease the chances of freezing. Although this is mostly applicable to outside pipes, depending on where you live and the plumbing system it may be worth insulating interior piping as well – although reaching those pipes can be a serious outlay if they are not exposed and flooring or walls need to be breached. Insulation can help keep a pipe closer to the temperature of the water inside the pipe, but it does not add heat to the pipe and will not prevent freezing if the pipe is exposed to prolonged freezing temperatures.


Tanya is a writer and a mother of two boys. She enjoys spending time with her husband and kids.You can reach her at [email protected].

Author: NBMs

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