Dangerously cold temperatures will increase your home’s risk of frozen and burst pipes this week.
Extreme arctic cold, which will bring dangerous wind chills and the coldest temperatures some cities have seen in more than two decades, is expected to impact the Midwest, Central and Eastern portions of the country beginning Tuesday and continuing through Thursday. These conditions significantly increase your home’s risk of frozen and burst pipes, which can be extremely disruptive and displace your family from your home for months—or even longer.
Some experts recommend you set your heat to at least 65°. Open vanity and cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate, and periodically check pipes in the unheated areas of your home that include plumbing—such as attics and basements—and pipes in external walls for frost or condensation. These may be warning signs that a pipe is beginning to freeze.
If you plan to be away from home, have a caretaker check in on your home at least once a day, and turn the faucet on to a slow drip to prevent pipes from freezing. If you will be away for several days, consider shutting off your home’s water supply and consult with a plumber to ensure your pipes are properly drained to avoid freezing.
How to check your home for signs of frozen or burst pipes:
- Inspect the interior of your home. Walk through your entire house, especially rooms such as bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms and those below and adjacent to them. Look for actively dripping water and signs that water is leaking out of sight, such as damp drywall, rings on the ceiling, unusual odors or bubbling, banging, clanking or whistling noises. Finally, examine any exposed pipes, looking for frost, condensation or bulging areas.
- Inspect unheated areas of your home. Water supply lines in unheated areas such as unfinished basements, crawl spaces, attics and garages are particularly susceptible to freezing. Check for leaks, pooled water, and the other warning signs listed above in these spaces as well.
- Check the functionality of your plumbing. Only after you have completed the steps above, turn on the faucets (both hot and cold) and flush the toilets to ensure they are working and that the water has no discoloration or odor. An open faucet that produces a slow trickle—or no water at all—is a good reason to suspect that a pipe has frozen. Also check the water meter; if it shows movement when all water fixtures are off, it is likely that a pipe has burst.
- Inspect the exterior of your home. Walk your property and notice whether water has accumulated anywhere it should not. Examine your yard for red flags like sinkholes.
How to intervene if a pipe has burst:
If you notice any of the warning signs listed above, shut off the water supply to the affected area of the house—or to the entire home, if necessary—and leave faucets open. You should then immediately call your plumber.
Last-minute steps to help avoid frozen or burst pipes:
- Ensure your heat is set to a minimum of 65°F. When it is very cold, setting the heat below this threshold may not be enough to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting—especially if your home is unoccupied.
- Open vanity and cabinet doors so warm air can reach pipes more easily.
- If you are going to be away for an extended period of time, consider shutting off your home’s water supply.
To protect your home throughout the winter:
We also recognize that maintaining a temperature of 65°F may not be economically practical at all times. We recommend installing a network-connected (“smart”) thermostat, which will allow you to remotely monitor and adjust the temperature in your home in response to the forecast, reducing the risk of burst pipes and unnecessary spending on energy bills.