Freezing weather can wreak havoc on your water and sewer pipes and can cost homeowners big money in repairs. Avoid the mess and the hefty price tag with these simple tips.
Prevent Frozen Pipes
- Close all crawl space vents.
- Insulate pipes. Residents may want to install foam insulation around pipes, especially those near exterior walls. This insulation is sized specifically to fit residential plumbing, and is commercially available at hardware stores. If residents have experienced freeze-up problems before, they may want to install heat tape as an added precaution.
- Make sure the lid is firmly on the water meter box. DO NOT remove the meter box lid. Unless there have been freezing problems before, do not remove the lid from your meter box. This releases valuable insulating air warmed by the ground.
- If the meter has frozen before, pack newspapers, leaves, or insulation around the meter in the meter box, and then replace the lid and cover with a hay bale, bag of leaves or similar material. Try to do this in the warmest part of the day to allow the air in the box to regain some heat from the ground after the lid is replaced. IF YOU HAVE INSTALLED THIS INSULATION IN ADVANCE, DO NOT OPEN YOUR METER BOX IF THE TEMPERATURE IS BELOW 25º Fahrenheit. Instead, place insulating type material on the ground over your meter box and water service line on both sides of the meter box to hold the heat in.
- Know where the water shut-off valve is located. It may be outside the house, inside the garage, or near the water heater.
- Remove all hoses from outside faucets. You may also want to install faucet covers, available at hardware or discount stores.
- Be sure that mobile home skirts are in place and that water line heaters are plugged in and operational.
- Leave the heater turned on if leaving the home, but at a low setting to save energy.
- Drip your faucets overnight or if leaving the home. Pick faucets that are farthest away from where the water enters the home and those that are on the north and west external walls of the structure, as these are the most prone to freezing.
- Open cabinet doors where pipes on exterior walls run through the cabinets. This will allow heated air from inside the home to move around the pipes.
- Businesses should ensure a plumber has removed or winterized their backflow prevention assembly.
- Ensure a sewer cleanout is installed on your sewer service line.
Other items to consider:
- Lines under cover (trees, brush, etc.) are less prone to freezing than those in the open.
- All water and sewer service lines should be at least 24" deep underground to the top of the pipe to be safe from freezing problems.
- Indoor plumbing adjacent to or in exterior walls is more prone to freezing. Lines in the north and west walls of a home are more susceptible than those in other walls.
- Outdoor service lines which are more exposed to a direct wind (north and west slopes) are more prone to freezing.
- Snow is a helpful insulator, keeping ground warmth contained. Do not remove snow from above your water line or meter box.
If a pipe is frozen:
Call Public Utilities immediately at 382-6352 during normal business hours or 382-3550 at other times to request to have the water turned off at the meter. Do not attempt to turn the water off at the meter yourself. This is a violation of City ordinance, and may cause worse problems by releasing the warmer air trapped within the meter box.
Turn your water off at the shut-off valve.
Never try to thaw frozen pipes with an open flame or electrical current. Call a plumber.
Residents with additional questions should call the Chesapeake Public Utilities Department at 382-6352.