Winter Tips

Preventing Water Pipes From Freezing
During the winter months, unprotected water pipes and water meters are vulnerable to freezing. This problem may be prevented by making sure that minimum heat (above 32 degrees Fahrenheit) is provided to all basement and other areas where the pipes and meters are located.

An inspection should be made to assure that there are no water pipes near a broken window, an open basement door, a cracked basement foundation, an uninsulated floor joist, or other exposed area that might allow below-freezing air to blow on the pipe long enough to freeze the water. Be sure repairs are made and potential problem situations remedied. If a sink or other closed area covers plumbing on an outside wall, leave the cupboard door open to let warm air circulate around the plumbing.

Thawing Frozen Pipes
If a water pipe should freeze, direct hot air from a hair dryer at the section of pipe that is blocked by ice, or apply an electrical heat tape. Don't use a torch or other open flame. 

Before thawing a frozen pipe, the shut-off valve to the building plumbing should be used to shut off the water supply and avoid release of water from any part of the pipe damaged by the frozen water. Shut-off valves are normally located on either side of the water meter. It's a good idea to operate these valves to keep them functional. Some property owners operate the shutoff valves at the time daylight savings time goes into or out of effect, at the same time they change smoke-detector batteries (or put up storm windows or other seasonal chore).

Unattended Homes
If you are leaving your home unattended:
  • Maintain above-freezing heat in all areas so pipes don't freeze. Leave the thermostat set at 55 degrees or above.
  • Leave doors open under the sink or other closed areas to circulate warm air.
  • Turn off the water heater. If it is electric, turn it off completely. If it is gas, turn the controls to pilot.
  • Unplug the water softener so that it won't regenerate.
  • If you do not have hot water or steam heat, turn the water off at the meter valve.
  • If you have shut off your water, open the hot and cold faucets in the kitchen sink to drain the system.
  • Have a trusted friend check your vacant home periodically.