As temperatures drop each winter, concern grows that water can turn to ice in your home or business’s plumbing system. Water expands when it freezes, an effect that can crack or break exposed pipes. And a broken pipe can cause serious damage after it thaws.
There are several precautions you can take to protect your pipes.
Turn Off and Drain Your Water
Locate the main water line coming into property from the street. Shut off the valve on the main line. In older structures, that may require turning off the water at the meter. You made need a large, T-shaped tool called a water key to accomplish that.
After closing the main valve, run all faucets to drain water from your pipes. Disconnect hoses to your washing machine and drain those faucets. Disconnect garden hoses.
While this option requires the most effort, it can be the best method for protecting your property from damage, conserving water and assisting the Sewerage & Water Board’s mission to maintain water pressure throughout the city. During prolonged freezes, however, it may not be reasonable to go without running water for long periods of time.
Run Tap Water
Locate the main water line and valve. Turn on both the hot and cold faucets at the sink farthest from that valve. You don’t need to run every faucet, and you need no more than a spaghetti-thin stream of water to best minimize the chance of water freezing in your pipes.
This method is only effective during temperatures below the freezing point: 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Valves and faucets should be turned off as soon as temperatures reach above freezing. Be aware that wind chill does not affect the temperature of pipes.
Running faucets may best protect your pipes during prolonged freezes, but it can also lead to higher water bills. The practice can also lead to citywide dips in water pressure when thousands of customers run their faucets simultaneously. Running your tap water will not protect toilets, ice machines, or other appliances where water is stored.
Open the doors to cabinets where your pipes are located to allow heat from the rest of the building to warm them.
Open interior doors to allow heat to pass from room to room.
Apply electrical heating tape to easily accessible pipes.
Wrap exposed pipes with foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves. You can also wrap pipes in at least an inch of rags or newspaper. Be sure to cover those materials with plastic or aluminum foil to keep them dry.
SAFETY NOTE: DO NOT INSULATE WITH COMBUSTIBLE MATERIAL WITHIN 2 FEET OF A GAS WATER HEATER.
Disconnect garden hoses.
After The Freeze
If you suspect a broken pipe, turn off the main water valve. Contact a plumber as soon as possible. The Sewerage & Water Board often receives numerous reports of broken pipes after freezes, but it can only respond to the most critical emergency situations.