Frozen pipes can lead to pipes bursting, causing thousands of dollars in damage to your home. If temperatures are expected to drop below freezing, a few important steps can help avoid a costly problem.
Some pipes are at a higher risk for freezing during winter months, such as those on the exterior of your home, located in exterior walls, or exposed pipes in unheated areas of the home.
To help avoid the freezing of outdoor pipes, disconnect any water hoses from outside, drain them and store for the winter season. Then close the interior shut-off valve for that faucet, open and drain the pipes, and install a faucet insulator, which can be purchased at most home improvement stores. If you are unable to get to a store (it's not worth risking dangerous roads if you don't need to) you can wrap the pipe with a towel or rag, cover it with a quart-sized baggie, then duct tape the entire setup so that it's secure to the outside of your home and water won't get to the cloth.
Turn your thermostat to at least 68 degrees, close any windows near exposed pipes, open the cabinet doors that house any pipes to allow the warm air to circulate around them, and allow a faucet to drip slowly with lukewarm water.
If a pipe freezes you can thaw it by heating water on the stove, soaking towels in the hot water and wrapping them around the pipes. You can also use a hair dryer, but never do this is there is standing water nearby, as it can cause electric shock or death. Always start thawing a pipe nearest to the faucet and make sure that the faucet is turned on so that water can drip out when it starts to melt.
If a pipe bursts, acting quickly is essential. First, shut off the main water valve to your home. Secondly, call a plumber immediately. Make sure you have the number of a reputable plumber on hand before you need it. Minimize the damage by removing as much water as possible.