Take steps to prevent frozen water pipes

And, steps to take to unfreeze pipes

By Bob Munch - Urbana Water Superintendent

Winter is here again and as the outside temperatures drop, the risk of frozen water pipes increases. The City of Urbana Water Division would like to remind all residents and businesses that the Water Division does not thaw frozen pipes. All pipes, meters and even meter pits are the responsibility of the property owner to maintain. Frozen meters will be replaced or repaired, however, the owner shall be billed for that service. Additionally, we would like to remind our customers, that if a water pipe should break inside your home, if you do not have an internal shut-off, finding your curbstop in 5 feet of snow in the dead of night may take hours and cause significant property damage. This damage will again be the owners responsibility. The Division recommends having a Certified Plumber install a Shut-off as soon as possible and that residents know where their shut-off is located and that they keep their valve box clear of snow .

Preventing frozen pipes

Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of these water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:

• Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without cause the pipe to break.

• Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located and are in unheated areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated. A hot water supply line can freeze just as a cold water supply line can freeze if the water is not running through the pipe and the water temperature in the pipe is cold.

• Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a “pipe sleeve” or installing UL-listed “heat tape,” “heat cable,” or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Many products are available at your local building supplies retailer. Pipes should be carefully wrapped, with ends butted tightly and joints wrapped with tape. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for installing and using these products.

During cold weather, take preventive action

• Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.

• Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children and pets.

• When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing because the temperature of the water running through it is above freezing.

• Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.

• If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55ºF.

To thaw frozen pipes

If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Locate the suspected frozen area of the water pipe. Likely places include pipes running against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.

• Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt more ice in the pipe.

• Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device. A blowtorch can make water in a frozen pipe boil and cause the pipe to explode. All open flames in homes present a serious fire danger, as well as a severe risk of exposure to lethal carbon monoxide.

• Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.

• Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

For more information, please contact a licensed plumber.

And, steps to take to unfreeze pipes

By Bob Munch

Urbana Water Superintendent

Submitted by the city of Urbana.

Submitted by the city of Urbana.