Prevent Pipes from Freezing on Vacation

It’s a terrible feeling to come home after vacation and find a pipe has burst due to freezing temps while you were away enjoying a warm getaway. The same problem can happen if you have a summer cabin or cottage and don’t take the necessary precautions to properly winterize in the fall. I know from experience, and the $80/hr that my local plumber charges to fix them is a pain in the wallet.

frozen pipes in winter If you live in the norther states (especially places like Minnesota, Wisconsin or the Dakotas) you are probably well aware that you need to take special precautions to make sure your household pipes do not freeze when the temps drop below freezing.  If you are heading south for the holidays or a quick sunny getaway from the middle of winter blues -there are a few tips you should keep in mind before leaving your home empty for a winter vacation:


Fall Preparation:

Drain water from any outdoor sources such as lawn watering systems, hot tubs or swimming pools.If it’s the first time you are doing this refer to manufacturer’s instructions or call them directly to get clarification on what needs to be done.

Top Tips to Protect Your Pipes from Freezing:

  1. Add insulation to basements, crawl areas or attic spaces. Insulation will create a buffer, maintain higher temperatures in these areas and apart from lowering your heating bill can help prevent pipes from freezing.
  2. Keep garage doors closed.
  3. Install heat tape or pipe sleeves (made of foam rubber or fiberglass) these act as insulation and greatly reduce chances of freezing.
  4. Open bathroom and kitchen cabinet doors, this will circulate warm, heated air from the main house in around the plumbing, this may not be practical all the time but is a good tip when leaving on vacation or on very cold nights.
  5. On very cold days, leave the cold water taps (for faucets served by exposed pipes) slightly open so there is a slow drip. The moving water, even very slow drip, will help keep the pipes from freezing solid. *Plug the drain or redirect the water into a bucket so the water can be reused (washing dishes, watering plants, etc) rather than wasting the water.
  6. If you are leaving on vacation during the winter or will even be spending just a night away, leave the heating set to temperature of at least 55° F.
  7. Caulk any holes or cracks in walls near pipes (interior and exterior walls) to keep the cold air out.

One of the most common insurance claims in the winter is for property damage due to pipes bursting and the water damage that can result. According to the Insurance institute for Business and Home Safety, those costs can easily exceed $5,000.

Another thing to remember is to let a neighbor know that you’ll be gone and have them check up on your place while you are away. If you don’t have someone next door you can trust, maybe you can get a friend or family member to keep an eye on it -especially when the forecast is calling for a steep dip in nighttime low temps. Technology has made this problem quite a bit easier for those who have taken steps to make convert their house into a “smart” home as now have the ability, with a Smart Thermostat you can check and adjust the temp of your home from a mobile app which gives you peace of mind when away and the ability to take action and prevent major damage to your pipes.



Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (PDF)