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Protecting pipes, sprinkler systems prevents problems from popping up during hard freeze

The last thing you want to deal with when it's bitter cold outside is broken pipes. They can be a costly nightmare. Here's how you can protect them.

HOUSTON, Texas — Temperatures could plunge into the 20s -- possibly even lower -- in the days ahead so it's time to be proactive and prepare your home. 

The most important thing homeowners should do is protect the pipes. When it gets below freezing, pipes can burst and that can be an expensive nightmare.

Keith Carter with Village Plumbing he gets those calls every time there's a hard freeze.

He said homeowners should protect any pipe that is exposed to the elements.

RELATED: Weather timeline: Houston will have extreme cold and temperatures could drop below 20; ice also possible

VERIFY: It's not a good idea to shut your water off to protect your pipes during freeze

“Anything that has water to it, you need to protect it and be insulated someway, somehow,” Carter said.

 You can get inexpensive insulation at any hardware store.

“You have a stick of insulation where it heats from the inside of it and it sticks to itself,” he said. “I use duct tape just to make sure it’s secured to the pipe and doesn’t come off.”

Also, Carter said it doesn’t have to be cold for long periods of time for pipes to burst.

“It can take one day. It can take 12 hours. It could take six hours, just a dead drop freeze. When it comes to freezing and winter, when winter comes, freezing comes. When freezing comes, comes problems. Pipes burst,” he said.

Carter said things around the house will also do the trick like towels, plastic bags and tape.

He said doing nothing at all can cost you more in the long run.

“I’d rather spend $5 on insulation then $500 on repairs,” Carter said.

Pipes in the attic should also be wrapped. 

And if you have a sprinkler system, it needs protection too. You should insulate it and shut off the timer. 

Inside your home, you should let faucets drip slightly and open cabinet doors.

Experts say don't shut your water off. You'd have to drain it completely and you'd have to use a professional tool to get all the water out.