Prepare your home when it's cold outside - and protect those pipes

Water pipes can freeze and rupture if they are not properly insulated. A mere eighth-of-an-inch crack in a pipe can release up to 250 gallons of water a day, soaking floors, rugs and furniture. To protect your home or apartment, follow these steps:

Before cold weather hits

Locate and insulate pipes most susceptible to freezing, typically those near outer walls, in crawl spaces or in the attic.

Wrap the pipes with UL-approved heat tape.

Seal any leaks that let cold air inside where pipes are located.

Disconnect garden hoses. Shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets; that will reduce the chance of water freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house.

When the weather turns cold

Let hot and cold water trickle at night from a faucet on an outside wall.

Open cabinet doors to let heat reach uninsulated pipes under a sink or appliance near an outer wall.

Make sure heat is left on and set no lower than 55 degrees.

If you plan to be away, have someone check your house daily to make sure the heat is on, and drain and shut off the water system (except indoor sprinkler systems).

If your pipes freeze

Make sure family members know how to shut off the water, in case pipes burst. Stopping the water flow can minimize damage to your home. Call a plumber and your insurance agent.

Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch.

There's always the potential for electric shock in and around standing water, so be careful.

Source: State Emergency Management Division