How to protect pipes from freezing in frigid weather

By Heather Janssen, AccuWeather staff writer

Winter's frigid air can bring with it possible plumbing problems, including frozen pipes.

"Frigid morning showers, frozen or cracked pipes, broken radiators, flooding, and leaks are just a few of the many unwanted plumbing issues brought on by cold winter weather," Horizons Services stated on their website.


(Flickr Photo/Scott Akerman)

To avoid a potential mess and an expensive fix, here are some ways to prevent and protect pipes from freezing in cold weather.

Prevent clogged drains

Treat sink and bathtub drains once a week with an environmentally friendly mix.

"Make up a mixture of 1 cup of salt, 1 cup of baking soda, and 1/4 cup cream of tartar. Pour equal amounts into your various drains and follow it with 2 cups of boiling water for each drain," as stated on the Horizons Services website.

Keep cabinets open

Opening cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathroom can help circulate warmer air around the plumbing, according to the American Red Cross.

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Let water drip from faucets

In frigid conditions, allow water to drip from a faucet served by exposed pipes, the American Red Cross suggests.

"Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing," the Red Cross reports.

Spread showers throughout the day

"At least 10-minute intervals between showers is optimal to maintain hot water and proper pressure," Horizons Services reports. They also suggested turning up the water heater during the winter months. However, to prevent burns, do not set the temperature about 125 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keep thermostat at set temperature

While some might turn down the thermostat at night, the American Red Cross suggests that it is best to keep the temperature consistent during the day and night.

"By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst," the Red Cross reports.

Eliminate drafts

Check throughout the home for areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas of the house.

"Take measures to prevent the flow of cold air in these areas," Horizon Services reports.

Common unheated areas to check in your house include basements, attics, garages and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

"Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated. A hot water supply line can freeze just as a cold water supply line can freeze if water is not running through the pipe and the water temperature becomes cold," Horizon Services advises.

If a faucet or pipe ends up freezing inside the house, it can be thawed by using an electric hair dryer, wrapping an electric heat pad around the pipe or soaking towels in hot water and wrapping them around the frozen portion of the pipe(s). Make sure to start thawing closest to the faucet first and that the faucet is turned on so that melted water can drip out.

In cases where the location of the frozen pipe cannot be located or it is not accessible, it is best to call a licensed plumber.

For more safety and preparedness tips, visit

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