Prevent Freezing Pipes
Cold Weather Plumbing Tips
- Seal all air leaks that may let an icy blast reach your pipes.
- Water pipes located next to an outside wall are often subjected to sub-freezing temperatures. Any plumbing located in a garage or any other unheated building is susceptible to low temperatures. Any exposed pipes should be wrapped or insulated. There are other devices such as heat tape which can be used to keep pipes from freezing.
- Keep the water meter box lid closed to prevent the meter from freezing. Report broken or missing lids by calling the Department of Water Resources at (434) 455-4250.
- Don't forget outside faucets. Disconnect hoses, turn off valves to outside faucets and then drain any water in the faucets. If there are no valves to outside faucets, they may be protected by insulating them and then placing a plastic bag over them to protect the insulation.
- Pipes in cabinets could be located against an outside wall. Even if these pipes have been insulated, you should consider leaving the cabinet doors open to allow the heat in the room to keep them from freezing.
- If your house has a crawl space located under it, close all air vents located in the foundation wall. This will prevent the pipes in the crawl space from being exposed to the cold air.
- If you plan an extended vacation during cold weather, call the Utility Billing Office at (434) 455-3840 to have the water turned off at the meter. Then you may drain your water pipes; turn off the water heater and other water using devices to give your pipes extra protection from freezing.
If Your Water Pipes Freeze
Even if all precautions are taken, you still might find a frozen pipe in your house. Open the cold water faucet nearest the frozen pipe to relieve the pressure of expanding ice that may cause a pipe to burst. Call us if you have no water at all.
Thawing a Frozen Pipe
Be careful! Gentle heat from a light bulb, hairdryer on warm setting or heat tape is good. If the pipe is already cracked from freezing, as the water thaws, it may begin to spray out risking danger of electrocution if it sprays the appliance you are using for thawing. Do not use a torch or other open flame.
- Find Your Main Water Cut-off Valve
- Look for this now! Imagine the panic, if water was pouring through the house from a broken pipe. Locate the main water cut-off valve, mark it, and make sure everyone in the house knows where it is. Most main water cut-off valves are located on the wall where the water enters the house.
- Know the areas in your home where water pipes are most vulnerable to freezing: crawl spaces, outside walls, outside faucets, unheated rooms, basements, garages or attics.
- Eliminate sources of cold air near water lines. Make your basement airtight by repairing broken windows, insulating walls and closing off crawl-space vents and doors.
- 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.
- Keep your thermostat at 55 degrees or higher. If you plan to be away for an extended period of time, ask a neighbor or family member to check the house regularly.
- Turn off and drain irrigation systems and backflow devices. Wrap backflow devices with insulating material.
- Insulate hot and cold pipes in unheated areas, such as the garage, crawl space or attic.
- Open cupboard doors under sinks, especially where plumbing is in outside walls, to let interior heat warm the pipes.
- Place a lighted bulb in small unheated areas where water pipes are located.
- Keep attached garage doors closed.
- Temporarily, keep a steady drip of both hot and cold water at an inside faucet farthest from the meter. This keeps water moving, making it less likely to freeze.