Rock Talk

Preventing Frozen Pipes

Last updated on November 15, 2019 at 09:18 am

To prevent your pipes from freezing, Plymouth Rock Assurance has some inexpensive tips that require little more than a trip to the local hardware store. If you, unfortunately, experience damage from frozen pipes and need to file a claim with Plymouth Rock, you may report it online.

1. Foam Insulation – Easy to find and use, this flexible foam tube wraps around almost any pipe. Just make sure to buy the right size tube for the pipe you are trying to insulate.

2. Window and Door Seals – Feel for cold air drafts in your home. If you locate any, apply door sweeps and weather stripping where possible. When weather stripping is not appropriate, caulk or an outdoor grade foam sealant will be effective at fighting the cold. Also keep garage doors closed to keep the cold away from water supply lines, if you have any in your garage.

3. Attics and Basements – These are two of the biggest offenders when it comes to fighting drafts that can freeze pipes. Your attic should have plenty of insulation between ceiling joists to keep the cold out and the heat in. In your basement, any pipes near outside walls should have insulated wrap.

4. Outside Faucets – Unless you have a frost-proof faucet outside your home, you’ll want to turn off the water leading to your traditional metal faucet and open the tap to drain any water left in the pipe. This will prevent it from freezing and causing damage.

5. Heat Tape – Pipes that have frozen in the past or are particularly prone to freezing can be wrapped in electrical heat tape that is thermostatically controlled to prevent freezing.

It is important to remember to follow all manufacturers’ instructions when using any of these products.

There are also some simple additional steps you can take to prevent pipes from freezing:

  • Open cabinets in your bathroom and kitchen to allow warm air easy access to plumbing. Remember to keep harmful cleaners and chemicals away from children.
  • Run a trickle of water from the taps at the highest and lowest points of your home. Remember to check under the sink to see if your hot and cold water have separate pipes. If so, you must run a cold and hot trickle just to be safe.
  • Keep your thermostat at a constant temperature to avoid any dips in the evening when pipes could be at their coldest point. We recommend holding steady at 65 degrees, especially if you will be traveling away from home. A slightly higher heating bill is always cheaper than a burst pipe.

In the unfortunate event your pipes have frozen, turn on the taps, try to warm the affected area with a hair dryer, and call a plumber. If the worst should happen and your pipe has burst, immediately shut off the water at the source. It is also a good idea to make sure everyone in your household knows where the on/off valve is located  beforehand.

For more Useful and Practical Tips for Frozen Pipe Prevention, watch our video.

You might also like:

44 thoughts on “Preventing Frozen Pipes

  1. Thank you very much for this information, and other bulletins you have sent prior to major storms containing helpful advice.

  2. I have lived in this house for 23 years, and have never had any problems with pipes. I think everyone may be overdramitizing this situation somewhat.

    1. I’m an insulation contractor in NJ. Many homes have survived cold spells in the past, but insulation deteriorates over time. So be sure to take the precautions that are mentioned, it can save you thousands of dollars in repairs.

    2. Jay Albert: Overdramatizing? Well, we’ve been in this home 13 years and it happened New Years Day, when the outside temperature was like negative 2 degrees when I left for work as a nurse. Fortunately my daughter was home and had not left yet for her drive back home (out of state). Unfortunately, she had no idea of where to turn the water off. She called me at the hospital in panic. My husband returned home in ten minutes, shut it off, and it was several hours of vacuuming water in the basement with my son-in-laws. An emergency plumber came and now we have major repairs and damage to deal with.
      If it has never happened to you, be careful with claiming overdramatizing, karma…

  3. I had no hot water coming from my kitchen sink so used a hair dryer under my cabinet 5 minutes on then 10 minutes off. Took about 6 hours but thank goodness it worked. I have been letting it trickle at night during this cold spell.

    1. If it gets so cold that your pipes have a tendency to freeze, you may want to allow them to keep a continuous drip. Yes, this may waste a bit of water, but consider the other environmental impact if the pipes freeze & burst.

  4. Your email said, “Keep your thermostat set to the same temperature while outside temperatures sit in the teens and single digits over the next 24 to 48 hours.” I normally set the thermostat to 65º during the evening. Why is this unsafe?

  5. Thanks for the information; however, if you can post these things a day before the storm, people can get to the hardware store to get insulation, etc. Grateful for info, especially for new homeowners and younger foks who may not know the ins and outs of home ownership!! 🙂

  6. The last cold spell I had frozen pipes so I had my grandson crawl in my crawl space with a heat lamp and extension cord. It took a couple hours. I left it turned on till the temp.rose. I just turned it on again for the predicted low temp.

  7. The suggestions in the e-mail look like they were taken verbatim from the Red Cross site but I think you have a typo.: temp should be no lower than 55 degrees, not 65!

  8. You talk about pipes inside the house. How about us that have pipes in a crawl space. Everybody talks about insulation but nobody tells you what thickness you need for these pipes. I don’t think the foam insulation is thick enough for pipes in a crawl space. tell me what I need. Also I have plastic pipe.

    1. Generally speaking, there usually are no plastic pipes, which contain water, in a crawl space unless it is Polybutylene piping. Be sure the pipes you are referring to are not a plastic drain which should not freeze.
      If there are water lines in your crawl space, a R19 factor Batt insulation would be appropriate in a crawl space. You do want to make sure you insulate the area beneath the pipes so that the warmth of the home is trapped between the floor sheathing and the insulation protecting the pipes. The insulation should not be pressed up against the floor sheathing/joists. It should be placed below the pipes but not touching the ground.
      Also, look for any openings in a crawl space. Even a small hole can cause a draft would could freeze the lines.
      Another suggestion is to have an energy audit completed on your home. If you contact your gas/electric company, they should offer this service to you. It can provide many inexpensive solutions.

  9. Someone told me that the _hot__water freezes before the cold. So I let the hot water driip and had no problems. The pipes did freeze prior to letting the hot water drip.

  10. Too late. I read your excellent email and went to start my faucets a-dripping. But – no water was coming out. Have tried hair dryer to no avail.

    1. Gary, are you still having trouble with your pipes? We want to make sure you take all measures to prevent a pipe from bursting and causing damage to your home. You can contact us directly with more questions.

  11. Prasad, I am glad you and your family made it home safe that is the most important part, but I understand why you would be upset. I would like to talk about your experience more and make sure you understand your coverage completely. I will email you shortly.

    1. Babs, we like to be a bit more cautious since many older homes are not as insulated as well or have pipes on outer walls are more susceptible to freezing.

  12. I appreciate your concern about helping you insured
    Having an outside tank can be a problem. I did last night with the temps a 2 degrees. A liight bulb near lined loosened the thickened oil.
    Thank you

  13. A drop light, hung under a sink or basin works.
    Know where the water main shut off is, and that it will turn off, if needed.

  14. I have had a water pipe break and it has caused our family UNTOLD HARDSHIP!!!!! NEVER want to go through this again. (Not through frozen pipe – perhaps a defect in pipe?)
    SO PLEASE heed these suggestions – you may prevent what I had to go through!!!!

  15. To Jay Albert and others in disbelief: You are not an on-call plumber, are you? On windy nights with zero or below zero temperatures, 65 degrees F is the correct overnight inside temperature, especially for people whose kitchen cabinets are long an OUTSIDE wall on the windward side of the house. Temperatures of pipes inside of outside walls can drop below 32 degrees very quickly in these temperatures and strong winds.

    When overnight temperatures are higher and there are no strong winds to deal with, setting the thermostat at 55 is not a problem. The 55 degree setting was chosen because if overnight temps are set lower, you will waste more fuel bringing your house up to desired daytime temps than you will save by lowering them below 55.

    1. Wayne Moreton: yesterday we had this awful problem, the on-call emergency plumber service indicated they had several calls like ours; the outside temperature was below zero. When you experience this, your kind of service is elevated to rock star status. More advice from professionals like you would be helpful.

  16. Also, If you plan on going away you may want to consider turning off the main water supply valve to the house. This way you will only have a small mess instead of a swimming pool in your basement !

  17. That’s great advice. I had my plumber turn the water off and blow the lines out blow out. I’ll be gone for two months. The heat is on. I insulated about 18 inches of pipe between the meter and where it enters the house. As long as my heat doesn’t go out, I’ll be ok. Any suggestions if my heat goes out?

    R. Clark

  18. Insulation should not be installed in the attic rafters as it stated in # 3 – I think you mean the floor / ceiling joist beams.

    NJ License inspector / contractor

  19. Years ago I did not disconnect my outside spigot line from my water hose. The pipe froze under the house due to the freezing air being pulled in through the hose. I was not aware this could happen gut the plumber explained I should always disconnect the hose during freezing weather.

  20. You probably don’t need a plumber to drain your pipes when going away for a long time in the winter. It’s not difficult to do it yourself. First turn off the main valve. Next open all the faucets in the house. Don’t forget those that go to washers, dish washers, etc. Then grab a bucket and go back to your main valve. Your main valve will be inline before your meter. There will probably be a second valve after the meter and this will probably have a little hole with a screw-on cover over it. It will be about the diameter of a pencil. Hold the bucket next to the hole and remove the cover. Any water remaining in the pipes will shoot out into the bucket. (That’s why you opened the faucets, so air can enter the pipes and release any vacuum that might be holding water.) It will take several minutes to drain. The bucket should be big enough to hold all of the water draining out of the pipes. My house has a bathroom, powder room, kitchen and laundry room and about one gallon drains out of the pipes.
    One more tip…. It’s up to you where you set your thermostat while you’re gone but most frost-free refrigerators need the room temperature to be at least 60 degrees to function properly.

  21. Thank you for letting people know. It happened to me I was on vacation for 12 days came home to a fllood in my kitchen pipe burst in shower – what a mess. It can happen anytime.

  22. Remember if your home is vacant (you moved out and are waiting to close) you may need “vacant house insurance”. If you call your insuror and let them know, they should sent you a letter in reference to same. I am a realtor and had a closing end of December. During the walk thru they agent phoned me and said the dishwasher wasn’t working: The homeowner had moved pending closing and left the thermostat at 55d. Dishwasher pipes are on the outside wall of most home and tend to freeze first esp. with no air circulation. Thankfully we managed to get their plumber there Christmas week for a great save! Can’t tell you how many people think 55d is safe….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *