As Missourians begin their holiday travel over the next few days, it’s important to take extra precautions to ensure you don’t come back home to a mess.

If you leave your house to spend a few days with family, or for an even longer vacation away from the cold weather, Brent Butler with the Missouri Insurance Information Service says you should take that cold weather into account.

Consistent below-freezing conditions pose a serious threat of frozen pipes and you should avoid leaving your house susceptible.

“One thing, people tend to turn their heat down in their house to save energy. Don’t turn it down below about 50 (degrees). You want some warmth in the house to keep the indoor pipes from freezing up. You might also open your cabinet doors so that the natural heat of the house is on the pipes. Especially pipes that are facing an outdoor wall, facing the north direction where the coldest wind would be coming from,” Butler said.

He says it might also be a good idea to wrap exposed pipes in your basement for extra insulation. Butler says it may seem like overkill, but it’s worth avoiding a broken pipe.

“When it does happen it is expensive because if you bust a water hose in the house you’re talking about drywall, carpets; anything can be damaged and that’s very expensive to be replaced,” Butler said.

Another possible precaution is to just make sure water continues to run through the pipes.

“On extremely cold nights you might want to leave a little trickle of water going in the faucets…. the ones closest to the outdoor walls. Just a little drip of constant water might keep it from freezing up and leading to a wider pipe bust,” Butler said.

Butler says if little or no water is coming out of a faucet when you turn it on… you should first check to make sure the pipe hasn’t already burst. If not, you can take some precautions to prevent that from happening.

“Don’t use any high-risk techniques; don’t take an acetylene torch to it or anything silly like that. But if you can wrap (the pipe), get some heat in on it, wrap it with a cloth. You may even try running a hair drier in and around it, you might break enough of the ice loose to cause it to melt internally enough to keep it from breaking. When in doubt call a plumber because if that pipe bursts you’re going to have problems in the house,” Butler said.

Butler says the danger of frozen pipes is the most significant when temperatures are consistently below 20 degrees.

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]