In the winter, the water within your home's plumbing can freeze, which causes it to expand and can place additional pressure on the structure of the pipe—even causing it to burst open and let water flow freely into your home. Understanding some of the things that you can do to prevent your pipes from freezing and then leaking out into your home can help save you frustration and money on future water damage repairs.
Heating Tape and Insulation
Th simplest and most direct way to prevent your pipes from freezing and thus becoming damaged is by applying insulation around at-risk plumbing. Insulation will work to keep heat trapped within the pipes, but for plumbing that runs along exterior walls or that has had a history of freezing, you may want to consider installing heating tape instead. This tape has a heating element and wiring running through it, actively generating heat when activated to ensure that ice is not allowed to form in your pipes (and melting any ice that does manage to form). Both specialized insulation for plumbing and heating tape are available at most hardware stores.
Improved Air Circulation
Another relatively straightforward way that you can keep your home's plumbing from freezing is by improving the overall amount of air circulation in the area immediately around the pipe. For pipes underneath sinks, this can mean just opening the cabinet doors to get air flowing inside. For other areas, you may want to consider leaving doors open or inspecting nearby vents and registers to make sure that dust and other debris have not blocked the air flowing out of them. You may also want to alter the settings on your thermostat to ensure that the furnace and fan are operating more often than they normally would to boost the distribution of heat throughout your home.
Finally, as a last resort to protect your pipes when the weather outside becomes particularly cold is to leave your water fixtures and faucets slowly dripping water. Moving water is much less likely to freeze, even if it is only flowing at an extremely low rate. Keep in mind that this is not a sustainable solution for the long term, as leaving your taps on constantly will greatly increase your monthly utility bills and could lead to water damage in the event that your drain accidentally becomes clogged, but in a pinch this is a good way to get through a particularly rough patch of weather until you can apply one of the above methods.
For more information, reach out to a plumbing service near you.