Ruptured water pipes can cause extensive damage to homes. Here are a few ways to prevent water pipes from freezing during extreme cold snaps in winter:
Seal cracks in doors, windows and foundations. Small openings can create a concentrated blast of air that can quickly freeze pipes.
Make sure that all rooms in the house that have plumbing fixtures are heated. Water pipes in unheated rooms can freeze, rupture, and cause extensive water damage.
Consider installing pipe insulation around the water pipes. Local hardware stores carry the proper type of insulation for this task. Remember to check the insulation to make sure it is not wet. Wet insulation is worse than no insulation.
Advise all family members to where the main water shutoff valve is located (usually near the water meter) in case of emergency.
Open cabinet and closet doors so that warm air can circulate around the pipes.
Allow cold water to trickle through the faucets at the highest part of the house to prevent water from freezing in the pipes.
If pipes freeze, NEVER thaw frozen pipes with an open flame. This is a fire hazard.
Use hot air from a hair dryer, the exhaust from a vacuum cleaner, heat lamps, heat tape, or electric heaters to thaw a frozen pipe.
Consider using the heat from a light bulb to thaw pipes slowly. Be sure to keep the bulb away from combustible material to avoid starting a fire.