How to Keep Pipes From Freezing in a Vacant House

Frozen pipes in a vacant house can lead to significant damage and costly repairs. When the water inside the pipes freezes, it expands, putting immense pressure on the pipes and potentially causing them to burst.

This can result in water damage, mold growth, and structural issues, which can be expensive and time-consuming. As a homeowner or property manager, it is crucial to take proactive measures to prevent pipes from freezing in an unoccupied property.

This guide will outline various strategies and best practices about how to keep pipes from freezing in a vacant house, ensuring the property remains safe and well-maintained during the colder months.

How to Keep Pipes From Freezing in a Vacant House


When it comes to preventing pipes from freezing in a vacant house, inspections are crucial. Here are some key things to look for during the inspection process:

1. Check for Any Leaks or Damage to Pipes Before Winter: It’s important to inspect all the pipes in the house before winter arrives and temperatures drop. Any leaks or damage should be repaired immediately to prevent further issues.

2. Look for Areas Where Pipes Could Freeze: Identify areas exposed to colder temperatures, such as near windows and doors, in attics or crawl spaces, or near outside walls.

3. Inspect Insulation: Make sure all pipes that could be susceptible to freezing are properly insulated. This can help prevent them from getting too cold and potentially bursting.

4. Consider Draining the Plumbing System: If the house will be vacant for an extended period of time during cold weather months, consider draining the plumbing system entirely to prevent any water from remaining in the pipes and potentially freezing.

Heating System

A heating system is essential to prevent pipes from freezing in a vacant house. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Keep the heat on. Even when you’re away from home, it’s crucial to maintain the thermostat at a minimum of 55 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure proper temperature control. This can help prevent the temperature from dropping too low and causing the pipes to freeze.
  2. If pipes are located in unheated areas of the house, ensure they’re properly insulated with pipe sleeves or insulation tape.
  3. Besides keeping the main heating system running, you may also want to use space heaters near any vulnerable pipes. Just be sure to follow safety precautions and never leave a space heater unattended.
  4. Smart home devices are available that can monitor temperature and humidity levels in your vacant house. This can give you peace of mind knowing you’ll be alerted if there’s a problem.

Circulate Warm Air

Circulating warm air throughout a vacant house is essential to prevent pipes from freezing. This helps maintain an even temperature in all areas of the house, reducing the risk of cold spots where pipes may freeze. Here are some ways to circulate warm air effectively:

  • Keep all interior doors open, including bedroom, bathroom, and closet doors. This allows warm air to flow freely between rooms and reach areas where pipes are located. Doing so can prevent cold pockets from forming and reduce the risk of pipes freezing in isolated areas.
  • Pipes under sinks are often located in cabinets, which can become cold and isolated from the rest of the house. To help protect these pipes, open the cabinet doors to expose the pipes to the warmer air circulating in the room. This is particularly important for sinks on exterior walls, as they are more susceptible to freezing.
  • If you have ceiling or portable fans, use them to help circulate warm air throughout the house. Set ceiling fans to run clockwise at a low speed, pushing warm air down and distributing it more evenly. For portable fans, place them strategically to direct warm air toward colder areas or rooms with exposed pipes.
  • If the house has a central heating system, make sure all vents and registers are open and unobstructed. This ensures that warm air is distributed evenly throughout the house. Additionally, clean or replace air filters regularly to maintain optimal airflow and heating efficiency.

Drain the Water System

Draining the water system in a vacant house can help prevent pipes from freezing by removing the water that could potentially freeze and cause damage. Here’s how to drain the water system:

Turn Off the Main Water Supply: Locate the main water shut-off valve, which is typically found near the water meter or where the water supply enters the house. Turn off the valve to stop the flow of water into the house.

Open All Faucets and Drain Valves: Go through the house and open all faucets, both hot and cold, as well as any drain valves. This includes sinks, bathtubs, showers, and outdoor faucets. Opening the faucets and valves allows water to drain from the pipes.

Flush Toilets and Remove Water From Tanks and Bowls: Flush all toilets to remove water from the tanks and bowls. If necessary, use a sponge or a small pump to remove any remaining water from the toilet bowl.

Drain Appliances: Drain water from appliances like water heaters, washing machines, and dishwashers. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper draining procedures. For water heaters, make sure to turn off the power supply (electricity or gas) before draining.

Use Air Compressor: If you have access to an air compressor, you can use it to blow out any remaining water from the pipes. Connect the air compressor to a faucet or hose bib and open the faucets one at a time, starting with the highest point in the house and working your way down.

Use Pipe Heating Cables

Pipe heating cables, also known as heat tape or heat cables, can help prevent pipes from freezing by providing a consistent source of warmth. These cables are designed to be wrapped around pipes or run alongside them, maintaining a temperature that prevents freezing.

Here’s how to use pipe heating cables:

Choose the Right Heating Cable: Select a heating cable that is designed for the type of pipe you have (e.g., plastic or metal) and the specific application (e.g., indoor or outdoor use). Make sure the cable is long enough to cover the entire length of the pipe you want to protect.

Install the Heating Cable: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper installation. Typically, this involves wrapping the cable around the pipe or running it alongside the pipe, securing it with cable ties or tape, and connecting it to a power source. Make sure the cable does not overlap itself, as this can cause overheating and damage to the cable.

Insulate the Pipe: After installing the heating cable, insulate the pipe with pipe insulation materials like foam pipe sleeves or fiberglass insulation. This helps to retain the heat generated by the cable and further protects the pipe from freezing.

Monitor and Maintain the Heating Cable: Regularly check the heating cable to ensure it is functioning correctly and providing adequate warmth to the pipe. Replace any damaged or malfunctioning cables as needed.

Regular Inspections

A regular inspection of a vacant house can help prevent potential problems from escalating. Having someone you trust, such as a neighbor, friend, or property manager, is always a good idea to check on the house regularly to ensure everything is in order.

They should be properly informed of the location and any specific concerns that need to be addressed while performing their inspection. By taking these proactive measures, you can avoid costly repairs and maintain your property’s condition.

Freeze Alarms and Monitoring Systems

Freeze alarms and monitoring systems can be incredibly helpful when it comes to preventing pipes from freezing in a vacant house. These systems are specifically designed to keep track of the temperature in your home and notify you if it drops too low, which is particularly helpful in winter.

Freeze alarms are relatively simple devices that sound an audible alarm when the temperature drops below a specified threshold. They’re typically battery-powered and can be easily installed near your water meter or other key plumbing locations.

Monitoring systems, on the other hand, are more advanced and offer greater peace of mind. These systems use sensors to track the temperature in your home and can send alerts via text message or email if temperatures fall below a certain level. Some systems even allow for remote monitoring via smartphone apps, making it easy to keep tabs on your property from afar.

Winterize Outdoor Plumbing

Winterizing outdoor plumbing is an important step in keeping pipes from freezing in a vacant house. This involves turning off the water supply to outdoor faucets, draining any remaining water, and disconnecting hoses.

It’s also smart to insulate any exposed pipes or wrap them with heating tape to provide additional protection against freezing temperatures. Additionally, you may want to consider covering outdoor faucets with insulated covers to further minimize the risk of freezing.

Frequently Asked Related Questions

What is the lowest temp before pipes freeze

The minimum temperature to keep pipes from freezing depends on several factors, such as the level of insulation, the location of the pipes, and the severity of the outside temperature.

However, generally speaking, it is recommended to keep the indoor temperature at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit, even when you’re not occupying the house. This will help ensure that there is a sufficient heat supply inside the house and prevent any water in the pipes from freezing and causing damage.

Will Pipes Freeze at 32 Degrees

The inquiry as to the likelihood of pipes freezing at 32 degrees Fahrenheit is a matter of crucial significance within the realm of thermodynamics and fluid mechanics. The physical behavior of fluids within conduits at low temperatures has been extensively studied, and it is well established that when water reaches its freezing point, it undergoes a phase transition from liquid to solid state, resulting in a substantial expansion in volume.

This phenomenon exerts significant pressure on the surrounding infrastructure, leading to potential structural damage and subsequent failure. Therefore, the answer to whether pipes will freeze at 32 degrees Fahrenheit is contingent upon various interrelated factors, such as the duration of exposure to sub-zero temperatures, the insulation quality of the piping system, ambient humidity levels, and the flow rate of water through said channels.

Additionally, it is important to bear in mind that variations in temperature can lead to fluctuations in the viscosity and density of fluids, consequentially impacting their flow properties.

At What Temperature Do Pipes Freeze in Crawl Space

Pipes in a crawl space are particularly vulnerable to freezing because they are not as protected from the elements as pipes inside the house. Typically, pipes start to freeze when the temperature dips below 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6.7 degrees Celsius). However, this can vary depending on factors like insulation and air circulation.