As a handyman here in Brighton Colorado I see many small details that are overlooked and later cause a lot of grief. Frozen pipes are just such a case.
Here in Brighton most winter days are mild by most standards. However we do get some very deep cold spells every year that can cause serious damage if not prepared for.
Any water supply lines that can be exposed to the cold should be insulated. This includes attic, crawl space , and unprotected exterior walls. This is one area were using more or even more is not a bad thing. The idea here is to protect the pipes from drafts and cold air that may come in contact with the pipes. An added protection of heat tape or heat cables will insure supply lines that are under mobile homes, porches or homes with open crawl spaces are protected.
On very cold days and nights, even a small air leak around wiring, gas lines, foundations can direct air onto a water supply line and cause it to freeze. Sealing all such leaks with insulation or caulk will help to trap any existing heat.
Garden hoses and sprinkler system connections should be disconnected and drained before the onset of the cold. If possible turn these of from inside the basement and drain the exterior sill cocks to insure they wont freeze.
When the temperature drops
Supply lines that run up exterior walls of the home are the most susceptible to freeze. On very cold nights leaving the hot water trickling out of the faucet will help to stop freeze up on pipes prone to freezing. Opening cabinet doors can help to allow warm air to circulate against wall that normally don’t receive much heat.
Before you go on vacation
The safest way to insure that pipes will not freeze up when on vacation is to shut off and drain the system. It will leave you with the most piece of mind. Barring that turning the thermostat down to 60 Deg and have a friend check on the home on very cold days is the next best strategy.
If your pipes freeze
If you suspect that your pipes have frozen, leave the faucets on and begin warming the pipes near the faucet and work back toward the freeze area. Do not use open flames or a torch to heat the pipes. A heat gun or hair dryer should be used. Remember you only need to raise the temperature of the pipe a few degrees to melt the frozen area. If you suspect that the pipe has burst or split from the freeze pressure, turn off the water main and call a plumber or repairman. Everyone should know were the main shut off is located.