With temperatures dipping into the single digits this week, it’s a great time to share our cold weather tips for winterizing your water system. Early action can help you avoid costly repairs to your pipes and water meter.

Here are our tips to keep out the cold:

1. Identify the location of the shut-off valves for your water main, usually near the water meter. In emergencies, use the house-side shutoff valve to shut off your water supply.
2. Keep water meter above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. When cold air blows on a pipe, it is at risk of freezing. Reduce that risk by repairing or replacing broken windows, covering windows with plastic and caulking windows near water meters and pipes.
4. Wrap and insulate all water pipes in unheated areas, like your basement. Pay close attention to pipes near exterior walls, especially in kitchens and bathrooms.
5. In extremely cold weather, let water run overnight at a trickle. Moving water will help prevent the pipes from freezing.
6. Disconnect garden hoses and winterize the outdoor faucet.

If you plan to be away from home or own a property that is vacant for an extended period of time, drain and winterize your home plumbing system.

The first sign of freezing pipes is reduced water flow from a faucet, so check your faucets for flow and pressure before you go to sleep and again when you wake up. If you do experience low pressure and suspect your pipes are frozen, check with a neighbor to make sure the problem is isolated to your home.

What to do if your pipes freeze

  • Do not apply direct heat to the pipes. If your pipes or water meter freeze, use a space heater or hair dryer to heat the area.
  • Make sure the faucets is turned on so melting water can drip out.
  • After your pipes thaw, look to see if your pipes are cracked or damaged and make sure to take the necessary precautions to prevent freezing from happening again.
  • You may want to engage the services of a licensed, registered plumber.

If a pipe is damaged

  • Shut off water with the house-side water main valve near your water meter.
  • If the break is in a hot water pipe, close the valve on top of the water heater.
  • Call a licensed and registered plumber to to repair the broken pipe.

The pipes inside and outside your home, up to the water main, are your responsibility.

If your pipes freeze, PWD is not responsible and is not able to help. Protecting your pipes and water meter from the cold is well worth the effort and will ensure your water flows through the winter.

Check out this video for more.

Download a printable PDF version of these tips