Winter Safety Tips:  Keeping Pipes Out of the Deep Freeze

Winter Safety Tips: Keeping Pipes Out of the Deep Freeze

Freezing weather is ahead and not far behind could be frozen pipes and a host of expensive repairs to pipes and water damage.  The Insurance Information Institute says claims from water damage and freezing account for 29.2 percent of homeowners insurance claims each year.  Even in the sunny south, winter temperatures can dip into the teens.  We know that water freezes at 32 degrees, but insulation and moving water typically protect pipes unless outside temperatures fall to 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below.  Experts say that pipes exposed to sub-freezing conditions can freeze in as little as six to eight hours, often occurring overnight.  


Prepare for the Worst

The proverbial ounce of prevention can keep pipes intact and minimize the effects of freezing weather.  Here are some do-it-now tips to winterize your pipes:


  • Insulate pipes – especially in crawl spaces and attics – anywhere pipes are exposed.
  • Seal leaks around pipes, dryer vents, and electrical wiring.
  • Disconnect garden hoses.
  • Shut off water to outside faucets, if possible.  After shut off, open the faucet to drain any water inside.
  • Cover outside faucets.  Most hardware and big box stores sell inexpensive insulating covers, but don’t wait until there’s a freeze warning or they will be hard to find.
  • If you plan to travel and a freeze warning is forecast, leave your thermostat set no lower than 55 degrees.  Consider shutting off the water to your house and draining pipes and ask a neighbor to check on your house.

Weather the Storm

Once you’ve taken early prevention steps, these tried-and-true measures can see you through hours of freezing temperatures:


  • Close outside doors to an attached garage, porch, or utility room.
  • Open interior doors to let heated air circulate.
  • Open cabinet doors to allow heated air to reach pipes.
  • Turn faucets on to allow a slow drip.  Moving water is less likely to freeze.

Hope for the Best

If the deep freeze catches you unprepared or your best efforts are not enough, take these steps to deal with frozen pipes:


  • Turn on faucets.  If there is little or no water flow, call a plumber.  To thaw pipes yourself, make sure cabinet doors are open and the house is heated.
  • Working from the faucet outward, you can use a hair dryer to slowly thaw exposed pipes.  A safe space heater can help thaw pipes in an interior wall.  Make sure faucets are open to allow water to flow.
  • If you find a burst pipe, shut off the water supply to the house.  If water is standing near any electrical system, consider shutting off the main breaker to the house.  Now is the time to call in professionals. 
  • If you can safely get to areas of standing water, begin drying them up with towels or a wet vac.
  • A plumber or disaster specialist can begin assessing damage and recommend repairs.  Take photos for any necessary insurance claims.

Vigilance is the Key

As winter conditions becomes more extreme, be weather aware.  A good weather app and a home weather station can help you monitor temperatures and warn of potential freezes before they damage your home.  Real-time alerts of warnings for your area can help you avoid damage and costly repairs.