Topic: Outdoor Kitchens

Date Posted: Thursday, February 05, 2015
Posted by: Tanya Zanfa (Master Admin)

How to avoid frozen water pipes this winter

How to avoid frozen water pipes this winter

By Carl Rotenberg



NORRISTOWN >> The adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” applies as much to frozen water pipes in your home as it does to general preparations for winter weather.

Several days of below freezing weather are required to cause major problems with frozen pipes but a homeowner who is on vacation for an extended period in the wintertime, or a home that is empty from foreclosure actions, can be just as vulnerable to the winter bane.

“When we have really frigid blasts that last several days we will have quite a few calls from customers with frozen pipes or frozen water meters,” said Terry Maenza, the director of communications at Pennsylvania American Water (PAW). “At that point it is almost too late to do something, If you have frozen pipes and they do break then you really have a problem.”

Aqua Pennsylvania officials advised homeowners to locate and visibly mark the master shut-off water valve so they can turn the water off if a burst pipe starts leaking, in a press release. If a water meter is located in an outdoor, underground meter pit, make sure the lids are not broken or missing. Shut off and drain any outside faucets including those for lawn sprinkling systems. Prevent air drafts in unheated areas, such as crawl spaces or basements, by replacing broken glass or making other repairs. Those repairs can include stuffing insulation into areas where water pipes run through unheated outer walls and crawl spaces.

If pipes habitually freeze, make sure to have a supply of heat tape and pipe insulation, a portable space heater and a portable hair dryer on hand.

The following advice applies to unheated areas of a home when temperatures drop below freezing for extended periods: Wrap pipes with insulation material or heat tape. Wrap indoor water meters with a blanket. Portable space heaters can be used but their operation must be safely used to keep exposed pipes in drafty areas from freezing. If interior pipes are located on an outside wall, such as a kitchen sink, heat tape can be installed on the pipes below the sink. If there are no small children in the house, the cabinet doors under the sink can be left open to allow warm air in the house to reach the pipes.

When temperatures remain near 10 degrees homeowners might want to leave a very thin stream of water running continuously from at least one tap, preferably the one located farthest from the water meter. The additional cost of the water is cheaper than the repair bill for ruptured pipes.

“It is really important to know where your water shut off is located,” Maenza said. “It is typically in the basement located near the water meter.”

Maenza said that the water utility company receives service calls from homeowners when the temperature remains below freezing for an extended number of days.

Steve Tagert, the president of Aqua Pennsylvania in Bryn Mawr, said this past weekend and “that first real cold snap near the second week in January” were two periods when the water utility service got a large volume of service calls for burst pipes. 

“This happens where people have pipes that are exposed in some way to freezing air whether it is a broken basement window or missing insulation,” Tagert said, “and where water pipes are on an outside wall and they go up to a second-floor bathroom. What we tell people is to put insulation around the pipe or heat tape.”

Tagert emphasized it was important to stop the movement of freezing air in unheated basements and crawl spaces.

“Where we get a lot of calls is after two to three days of subfreezing temperatures from customers without water and then after that we get calls for homes that are vacant,” Tagert said.

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