When the weather turns bitterly cold, many homeowners run the risk of their pipes freezing. And when pipes freeze, water expands inside the pipe, increasing pressure and leading to cracks and breaks. Which can amount to VERY costly repairs. The good news: these 7 relatively simple and mostly inexpensive hacks can help keep your pipes toasty all winter long.

7 ways to warm up your pipes this winter

Here’s how you can save yourself a bunch of grief. 

1. Drain outdoor supply lines

Outdoor pipes are especially vulnerable to freezing (think about exposed hose bibs, sprinkler lines, or even pool lines). Drain and store any hoses that you typically keep outdoors. And open any outside hose bibs and valves to allow any remaining pipe water to drain out.

2. Insulate unheated interior areas with newsprint

Areas of your home that are indoors, contain plumbing, and are generally unheated (like crawl spaces, basements, garages or even kitchen cabinets) would greatly benefit from extra insulation to help maintain non-freezing temps. Fiberglass or foam sleeves can be used to wrap a pipe. But for a cheaper, DIY-friendly insulation material to use around exposed pipes, try newspaper, which even in small amounts (say, ¼ of an inch) can provide significant protection.

3. Use heat tape on pipes

UL-listed heat tape can be wrapped around or alongside pipe to help keep it from freezing. You can find heat tape at an electrical supply store or your local hardware shop. To install, be sure to follow the listed manufacturer’s instructions.

4. Seal up air leaks 

Look for areas around pipes that may be letting in cold air from the outside (like dryer vents or gaps where pipes run through the floors and walls). Then seal them up with caulk or spray foam insulation.

5. Let faucets drip, drip, drip

It may seem counterintuitive (or potentially wasteful), but if you’re worried about freezing pipes during a particularly icy spell, trickling warm water can help keep your pipes from freezing. But try not to leave your dripping faucet unattended — if you have to leave for a few days, you might return home to a big mess.

6. Leave kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open

When you shut your cabinet doors, you’re also keeping the warmed air of your home from circulating around any exposed plumbing. Keeping these cabinet doors open will raise the temp around your pipes. Just be sure to first remove anything that could pose a risk to children, like toxic household cleaners.

7. Leave the thermostat on low when you travel

Taking a holiday? Avoid turning the heat off altogether. Keep it on a low setting to make sure your pipes stay warm. Set your thermostat for a temp above 55 degrees Fahrenheit (and leave open those bathroom and kitchen cabinet doors) until your return. If you’re leaving a home for an extended period during the cold weather months, you might want to drain your pipes entirely.

Safe and smart | Home safety

about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.