A winter survival guide for your pipes

Tis’ the season for protecting your pipes. Here are a few tips to make sure your holidays stay warm and comfy.

It all starts with the thermostat
If you live in an old house built over an un-insulated crawl space, this isn't the time to worry about your heating bill. Simply turn up the thermostat. It’s remarkable how much money you’ll save by upping the temperature.

What’s a heating cable?
You know what? It works. Install a heat trace cable to keep a cold pipe from freezing. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on the packaging for how to do this. Some heat tapes are wrapped around the pipe, others simply run along it. If you can't find heat trace cable at your local home center, try an electrical supply house. Sometimes this cable is cut to length from a roll, in which case you may have to buy a kit (or separate parts) to convert into a working heat trace cable. In other cases, the cable is sold ready to use, with one end safely terminated and insulated and the other end with an electrical plug.

Time to call in the Space Heater
You can keep unprotected pipes above freezing by simply placing an electric heater near them. Remember, the goal is not to make the space toasty warm and comfortable. It's to keep the water in the pipe above freezing.

No more water
In the worst case, turn off the main water valve while the house is unoccupied or while you sleep. If a pipe freezes and breaks, the spillage is limited only to the water in the pipe.

Open the Doors
It's not unusual for plumbing running to a kitchen sink on an exterior wall to be extremely vulnerable because the wall is not insulated. Open the cabinet doors along that wall to project heat into the space. Place an electric heater in front of the cabinets for an extra measure of cold protection.