January 5, 2022
By Mark Paup

Ways to Prevent Your Pipes From Bursting While You’re On Vacation

Updated January 15, 2024

You can prevent your pipes from bursting due to freezing over while you’re on vacation.

If you’re planning on escaping that frigid Iowa winter weather by going on vacation, good for you! Just make sure you prepare your home’s plumbing before you go so you don’t come home to any nasty surprises like burst pipes and property damage.

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Some of the best things you can do to prevent your pipes from freezing and bursting while you’re on vacation this winter include:
  • Insulate Exposed Pipes
  • Keep Cabinet Doors Open
  • Winterize Your Hose Bibbs
  • Drain and Shut Off the Water System
  • Set Your Thermostat No Lower Than 55 Degrees Fahrenheit
  • Have Someone Check on Your House Daily

Let’s take a closer look at each tip to help you prepare. But first, we’ll explain why pipes sometimes freeze and burst in the winter.

Need help from a professional plumber before you go on vacation this winter? Call Golden Rule at 515-393-4526 or contact us online to learn more about how our plumbing tune-up can keep your pipes from bursting.

Why Do Pipes Freeze and Burst?

During the winter months in Iowa, daytime temperatures frequently drop below freezing. According to Consumer Reports, if it dips below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, the water inside your pipes may freeze. Pipes burst because pressure builds between the expanding ice and the closed faucet.

To prevent this from happening, here’s what you should do:

Insulate Exposed Pipes

golden rule_pipes from bursting vacation

Pipes near outer walls, crawl spaces, or inside the attic are most susceptible to freezing, especially if your home is not adequately insulated. Protect these pipes from freezing by wrapping them with UL-approved heat tape or fitting them with insulation sleeves. (You can find both at your local hardware store.) This extra layer of protection will help slow down the heat transfer and keep the water inside the pipes from freezing.

Keep Cabinet Doors Open

Opening cabinet doors underneath the sinks in your kitchen and bathrooms will allow the warm air inside your home to circulate through the pipes. If you’re only going to be gone for a few days, you might also consider letting the faucets drip (unless you plan to drain and shut off the water system while you’re gone). Letting a faucet drip keeps a slow trickle of water running through the pipes, making them less likely to freeze and burst.

Winterize Your Hose Bibbs

Draining and shutting off your outside hoses and faucets will ensure no water is left in the lines to freeze and expand. Hose bibbs are outdoor faucets that use a hose attachment.

Ideally, it would be best if you did this at the beginning of winter, whether you’re going on vacation or not. Just follow the four steps outlined below to complete the process.

  1. Find the shut‑off valve:
    Finding your exterior faucet’s shut-off valve will guarantee that no water gets stuck in your lines this winter. You can usually find the correct shut-off valve inside your home, generally in the basement, crawl space, or utility room.Before you move on to the next step, make sure to turn off all the valves. Every hose bibb in your home is attached to its shut-off valve. For every faucet you have outside, make sure to find and turn off the appropriate shut-off valve in your basement or elsewhere on your property.
  2. Remove, drain and store hoses:
    If you leave your hoses outside in the winter, they may get cracked and ruined. Detach all your hoses from the bibbs and drain them thoroughly.Make sure to store them in a warm place, such as a basement, closet, or heated garage for the winter. Storing the hoses well will guarantee they remain in good working condition.
  3. Leave your faucets open:
    Once you’ve removed your hoses, make sure to leave them in the on position. While this may sound counterintuitive, it will help prevent any lingering pressure from building up in your hose bibb.
  4. Cover your hose bibbs:
    After you have completed all the above steps, make sure your hose bibbs are covered up to prevent rusting and cracking in the faucets as the snow falls and the temperatures dip. You can buy hose bibb covers online or at your local home improvement store.

Drain and Shut Off the Water System

Even if you’re only going to be gone for a week, shutting off your main water valve will provide peace of mind and help you avoid severe water damage and financial issues due to expensive repairs and cleanup.

  • To shut off the water, you’ll first have to locate the main water supply valve in your home. It’s most likely outside your house, in your basement, or at your concrete slab near the water meter. It will either have a wheel or a lever control.
  • Close the lever or turn the wheel all the way clockwise to shut it off.
  • To drain the lines, open all the sink, shower, and tub faucets and flush all the toilets until the tanks are empty.
  • Leave the faucets open while you’re gone.

Set Your Thermostat No Lower Than 55 Degrees Fahrenheit

While you and everyone else in your household are on vacation, you won’t need to keep your home as warm as you usually would. Doing so would be a waste of energy and money. Instead, keep your thermostat set to 55 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure that your pipes don’t freeze, and your furnace doesn’t unnecessarily run while you’re gone.

Have Someone Check on Your House Daily

As a final precautionary step, coordinate with a friend or neighbor that’s willing to check on your house once a day. That way, they can ensure the heat is still running, your faucets are dripping, and ensure everything else is as it should be while you’re gone.

Want Recommendations from a Reliable Plumber in Des Moines?

Call Golden Rule at 515-393-4526 or contact us online. True to our name, we’ll always provide honest and reliable recommendations to help you prepare your home for winter and avoid frozen and burst pipes with our plumbing tune-ups before your vacation. For over 20 years, our family business has served the Des Moines community with respect and expertise.

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