How can I prevent pipes from freezing?

Frozen water pipes and the damage they can cause are a reality for thousands of people each year. That’s especially the case when you have weather like the recent Polar Vortex.

“We see about 2,200 claims per day during an average January winter,” says Chris Zimmer, senior vice president of Claims Field Operations for Erie Insurance. “This January, we saw almost 3,000 claims per day. Many of them were due to frozen water pipes.”

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety says a burst pipe can cause more than $5,000 in water damage. That’s because the damage can be extensive.

“If the burst happens in a finished area, it can saturate the carpet and destroy hardwood by swelling the joints,” says Mark Murdoch, an ERIE Agent at Murdoch Insurance in Harrisburg, Penn., who has had Customers who suffered $10,000 in burst pipe damage. “It starts wicking up the drywall—if it is not removed, it will be a source of mold growth. Sometimes you need to remove the drywall and insulation from the area.”

To prevent pipes from freezing and causing major damage, follows these steps:

  • Drain water from pipes that are likely to freeze. This includes your swimming pool and sprinkler water supply lines.
  • Disconnect any hoses from the outside of your home, drain the hoses and store them in the garage. Make sure to close the indoor valves supplying these outdoor access points.
  • Insulate the area around vents and light fixtures. This helps prevent heat from escaping into the attic.
  • Seal any wall cracks. Be sure to pay careful attention to the areas around utility service lines.
  • Install heat trace tape on your sprinkler system plumbing. This is a DIY job—just make sure the tape plugs into a reliable electrical outlet so it can do its job.

Learn how you can prevent frozen water pipes when you didn’t prepare beforehand

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