We all know Wyoming gets cold—really cold. Those sub-zero temperatures can get costly, especially if your pipes freeze and burst as a result.

In fact, according to State Farm representative Angela Thorpe, frozen and burst pipes are responsible for the highest claimed insured losses in Wyoming. Even the University of Wyoming has sustained water damage due to burst pipes two years in a row, causing more considerations in strategies to prevent such costly accidents in the future.

“A lot of people don’t think of water loss as being damaging when—in fact—they can be as damaging as, let’s say, a total loss fire,” says Thorpe.

One reason for this is that many people in Wyoming have second homes and do not know about a burst pipe until days or weeks after the problem begins. Still, many people decide to decrease the temperature on their thermostat when they leave town for extended periods of time, thinking it will save money in the long run. Thorpe says this kind of thinking can result in more costly repairs.

“A lot of people are tempted to turn their heat way down—they’re going to be gone. Well, that’s when that freeze will hit, and there will be some burst frozen pipes as a result of that.”

Thorpe says there are many things people can do to reduce the chances of burst pipes and limit the damage if such an event does occur.

  • Keep the thermostat set to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit—even if you are out of town.
  • If you do leave town, have a trusted neighbor check on your house when the temperature drops.
  • Invest in a water alarm to place in your basement or near a water source, this can notify you of a leak before costly water damage occurs.
  • On the very cold days, open your cabinets that lead to the pipes so they can get more heat from your home.
  • Open your faucets to just a trickle when you know the temperature may plummet. Moving water has a lower chance of freezing.
  • If you do find that your pipes have frozen but are not burst, you can attempt to locate the freeze and use a gentle heat—such as a blow-dryer—to attempt to thaw the pipes. **Do not use a space heater to thaw the pipe or to prevent freezing. This may result in a fire.**
  • If you are unsure of what to do if your pipes are frozen and/or burst, the best thing to do is turn off your water and call a plumber to help.

Thorpe says another common mistake is leaving an outdoor hose hooked up during times of heavy freezes, often in late September and early October. Failing to disconnect an outdoor hose can result in frozen pipes where the hose connects to the indoor plumbing.

With plenty of winter weather to come this year, we hope these tips will help prevent costly water damage as a result of frozen and burst pipes.