Tips to Protect Your Pipes

How To Prevent Your Water Meter And Pipes From Freezing

Precautions to Take When It Gets Cold

Don't let freezing temperatures catch you by surprise. Be ready. Check your home and consider the following:

  1. Eliminate drafts by closing off crawl space vents and doors, repairing broken or cracked basement windows, making sure basement doors and windows close tightly, and sealing off cracks in the wall.
  2. Insulate pipes in unheated parts of your home including crawl spaces. Pipes should be wrapped with inexpensive foam insulation you can get at local plumbing supply and hardware stores. To protect pipe you can't get to, consider upgrading the insulation between your walls.
  3. Protect your meter from freezing. If you have an outdoor meter pit, be sure the lid is not broken or missing. Unheated indoor meters should be protected by insulation Make sure the valves on either side of the water meter are working and can be turned off if a frozen pipe bursts. All family members should know where the valves are and how to operate them in an emergency.
  4. Keep the heat on in the house even if you go away. This will protect the pipes if the temperature drops unexpectedly. You have the option of turning off the heat if you'll be away for an extended period but that means you should drain all the water from the pipes, toilets and water heater. Turn off the power source to the water heater; if it's gas, turn the heater on "Pilot" Shut off and drain all outside faucets, and drain and store your garden hose.

Precautions to Take When It Gets Near Zero

The danger of pipes or the water meter freezing increases during long periods of zero or near-zero weather. Here are some tips that work:

  1. If a sink is against an outside wall, open the cabinet doors at night to allow warm air to reach the pipes Be sure nothing such as a fireplace prevents the thermostat from turning on the heating system The bottom of the water meter cracks when it's frozen and it can burst, but you still could have water.
  2. Check the meter and call your local water provider if you see a crack. DO NOT TRY TO REPAIR THE METER YOURSELF.

What to Do If Your Pipes Freeze

Don't panic! If you can get to the frozen pipe, chances are you'll be able to thaw it yourself. Frozen pipes usually feel extremely cold which helps you to locate the freeze. Use any safe source of heat and apply slowly to avoid bursting.


Open the faucet closest to the freeze and try one or more of the following ideas. And be patient. It may take several hours for the pipes to thaw.

  1. Soak a heavy cloth or towel in hot water and wrap it around the pipe.
  2. Slowly pour hot but never boiling water over the cloth. You can heat the water on the stove or in the microwave
  3. Use a portable hair dryer and slowly apply its heat to the pipe
  4. If the freeze is under the sink, put one or two large pots of boiling water inside the cabinet. The steam will help the pipe to thaw
  5. Check your meter. If the bottom is cracked, the meter is frozen. Call your local water provider. But remember, you are responsible for protecting the meter, so there is usually a charge for its repair or replacement
  6. If the freeze is behind a wall and you can't get to it, you'll probably have to call a plumber to thaw it. You could do it yourself by carefully opening a hole in the wall and getting some heat to the freeze. But you'll have to cope with repairs to the wall.