Homeowners should take the following precautions:
Inside Your Home
- Keep the house warm. Set the thermostat for at least 65 degrees—since the temperature inside the walls, where the pipes are located, is substantially colder a lower temperature will not keep the pipes from freezing.
- Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. If too much heat escapes through the attic, it can cause snow or ice to melt on the roof. Water can then re-freeze, causing more snow and ice to build up. This can result in an ice dam that causes significant roof damage. Well-insulated basements and crawl spaces will also help protect pipes from freezing. You may also consider insulating unfinished rooms such as garages to keep pipes from freezing.
- Provide a reliable back-up power source. In the event of a power outage, continuous power will keep your home warm and help prevent frozen pipes as well as help if you have a battery operated sump-pump. Consider purchasing a portable generator and follow installation and maintenance steps to ensure safety.
- Have the heating system serviced. Furnaces, boilers and chimneys should be serviced at least once a year to prevent fire and smoke damage.
- Check pipes. Look closely for cracks and leaks and have the pipes repaired immediately. Pipes in attics and crawl spaces should be protected with insulation or heat. Pipe insulation is available in fiberglass or foam sleeves. Heating cables and tapes also are effective in preventing pipes from freezing. Select a heating cable with the UL label and a built-in thermostat that turns the heat on when needed (without a thermostat, the cable has to be plugged in each time and might be forgotten). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely.
- Install an emergency pressure release valve in your plumbing system. This will protect the system against increased pressure caused by freezing pipes and can help prevent your pipes from bursting.
- Remove combustible items placed near any heart sources. This includes wood stoves and space heaters.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and make sure they are working properly. Not only do residential fires increase in the winter, but so does carbon monoxide poisoning
- Learn how to shut the water off and know where your pipes are located. If your pipes freeze, time is of the essence. The quicker you can shut off the water or direct your plumber to the problem, the better chance you have to prevent pipes from bursting.
- Hire a licensed contractor to look for structural damage. If damage is discovered, have it repaired now. Also, ask about ways to prevent water damage due to snow-related flooding. Plastic coatings for internal basement walls, sump pumps and other methods can prevent flood damage to your home and belongings.