ywcCold Weather Tips ywc

When it drops below freezing, water pipes in your home can freeze and burst. Here are some practical measures homeowners can take to safeguard against frozen water lines and prevent costly plumbing damage.

Why is pipe freezing a problem?

Water expands as it freezes putting pressure on whatever is containing it.  This pressure can cause copper, steel, iron, plastic or other pipe materials to fail. Even a small split in a pressurized water line will allow hundreds of gallons to flow over the course of a day and can cause significant damage to walls, floors, ceilings and furnishings.  A hot water line can freeze just as a cold water line can freeze if the water is not running.

Steps you can take to protect your plumbing:

It is very important that everyone in your household knows the location of the main water shut-off valve. It's also good practice to periodically test this valve to keep it in good working order. The main valve is typically located next to the water meter or if your meter is in an outside pit, the valve will be close to where the water line enters the house. This can be in a crawl space, basement, utility closet or room and is often close to the hot water heater.

Should a water supply line freeze or burst, the first action is to shut the water off immediately by closing the main valve. Hang a bright-colored sign near the main shut-off valve so it can be easily located at any time in the event of an emergency.

Before cold weather sets in:

Know the areas in your home where water pipes are most vulnerable to freezing - lines supplying outdoor faucets, pipes close to, or in exterior walls and in unheated areas like basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages, behind kitchen, bathroom or utility cabinets and water supply lines to sprinkler systems, swimming pools or garden ponds.

Eliminate sources of cold air near water lines. Make your basement airtight by repairing broken windows and insulating walls. Eliminate drafts. Close off crawl space vents and doors. If you turn down the heat in areas of your home to conserve energy, be aware that water pipes in adjoining walls will be exposed to colder temperatures and could freeze.

Protect your pipes. Insulate pipes or use UL-listed heat tape for pipes that are prone to freezing. These products can be purchased at a hardware store or home center.  In an emergency, several layers of newspapers or rags can be used for temporary insulation. 

Protect your water meter. For water meters located outside in buried pits or boxes, make sure the lid is tightly closed. 

Drain water lines to outside faucets. Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. Drain water from water sprinkler or other (swimming pool, garden pond, etc.) supply lines.

General emergency preparations include storing containers of bottled water, available in supermarkets. Two gallons of water per person, per day, for drinking and sanitation is recommended. Be careful not to keep bottled water indefinitely; check labels for expiration dates.

Keep your home's thermostat at 55 degrees or higher during cold weather. If you plan to be away for an extended period of time, ask a neighbor or family member to check the house regularly. You may also want to turn off your water system at the main valve if you will be away for an extended period. However, if your heating system requires water to operate, you should keep the water turned on.

When temperatures drop below zero:

Open a faucet and run a small trickle of water overnight to keep your water pipes from freezing. The cost of running extra water will be a fraction of the cost to repair a broken water pipe.

Open doors to cabinets located on exterior walls to expose water pipes to warmer room temperatures.

If necessary, place a light bulb near exposed water pipes and your water meter.

If a water pipe freezes:

If you suspect or discover that pipes are frozen, shut the water off immediately. Do not attempt to thaw frozen pipes unless water is shut off. Freezing often causes unseen cracks in pipes or joints.

Take measures to thaw pipes immediately, or call a plumber for assistance. Open the cold-water faucet nearest the freeze to relieve pressure and reduce the likelihood of breakage. Keep the faucet open as the frozen area begins to melt. Running water through the pipe will help melt more ice in the pipe. Check all other faucets for additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

Apply heat to the frozen pipe by either warming the air around it or by heating it directly. Hot water can also be used in some situations.

Do not use an open flame to thaw pipes. It's a fire hazard and could damage plastic piping.

Once pipes have thawed, turn the water back on slowly and check for leaks.

If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.

For further assistance, please call our Customer Service at 845-3601.