Frozen pipes can be a household nightmare. A few inexpensive items and a few preventive steps can help you avoid the problem.

Steps:

  • Apply electrically powered heat tape. The tape will ensure protection against frozen pipes in the coldest weather as long as the utilities are on. Apply the tape in a spiral pattern following the manufacturer's recommendations regarding the distance between individual coils.
  • Warm the area with a heat lamp if all the pipes are concentrated in one small space.
  • Use foam rubber or fiberglass insulation (see Tips below) to cover all exposed lengths and joints of the pipe if electrical solutions are inappropriate. (If you've used heat tape you may need to go up one size in fiberglass insulation covering to get a proper fit.)
  • Secure the sections of insulation with tape as needed.
  • Prevent drafts of frigid winter air. Secure all crawl space openings or windows and insulate and caulk any cracks in the structure's foundation.

Tips:

  • Rubber insulation is less expensive and easier to work with than fiberglass, but its not the best product to be used in conjunction with heat tape, because it doesn't provide any vapor barrier. Fiberglass insulation is the better insulator, though potentially irritating to the eyes, skin and lungs.
  • If the house isn't in use during the coldest months, drain the plumbing system before closing the house down. A drained system is the only foolproof way to avoid a freeze-up.
  • There are professionals you can call to insulate pipes if the job is a large one.

Warnings:

  • When using electrically powered heat sources, follow the manufacturer's warnings to avoid fire hazards. Inspect any electrical implements frequently.
  • Remember insulation is designed to retain the heat that is already in the pipe. It cannot add heat.
  • If using fiberglass insulation, be sure to wear gloves, goggles and a dust mask to protect yourself from its irritating qualities.

Outdoor Hoses:

  • Disconnect outdoor hoses, drain and store in a protected area.
  • Wrap exposed faucets and pipes.

Information provided by eHow Inc..