Monday, December 10, 2012 - 3:10am

Now that winter weather seems to be arriving, prepare ahead to prevent winter damage. Unprotected water pipes and meters are vulnerable to freezing. This problem may be prevented by making sure the minimum heat of 32 degrees Fahrenheit is provided.

When outdoor temperatures are below zero for more than three days at a time, water pipes and meters that are exposed to cold air can freeze and break. Preventing pipes from freezing is easier and safer than trying to thaw them. Now is the time to solve problems before they occur.

* All exposed pipes should be properly insulated. Common household areas where exposed pipes can be found include unfinished garages, basements, mudrooms, laundry rooms, and under the kitchen sink. Use insulating tape or molded pipe sleeve and wrap it over the entire length of exposed pipe; you can find supplies at a home improvement or hardware store. While you're at it, inspect these pipes for cracks and leaks. Locate your plumbing system's shutoff valves and make sure that you can shut off the water quickly should your pipes burst.

*Open cupboard doors in the kitchen and bathrooms. Water lines supplying the kitchen or bathrooms are frequently located in outside walls. Any air leaks in siding or insulation can cause these pipes to freeze in frigid weather. Leaving the cupboard doors open when the temperature is below freezing allows pipes behind the cupboards to get more heat.

*Before you leave for an extended winter vacation, make sure to prepare your home for the possibility of water damage while you're away. Keep the house heated, open under sink cabinets to allow warm air to reach the pipes, and allow your faucets to drip. If you'll be gone for a long time, consider calling the Water Utility to shut off the water, and possibly have your water system completely drained by a professional plumber.

*Be cautious if your pipes do freeze. If some but not all of your water fixtures are working, chances are you have a pipe inside your house that has frozen, but water is still coming in from the street. This becomes the property owner's responsibility. You can try thawing the pipe with a hair dryer or call a plumber. Don't try using any kind of open flame to thaw the pipe.


  • Karin Daane, Water Utility, Acting PIO(608) 266-9129

Water Utility