Take precautions to avoid frozen water pipes


December 28, 2004

With winter closing in, Pennsylvania American Water reminds its customers to winterize their pipes and meters to prevent them from freezing and bursting.

“Frozen pipes and meters can damage homes and be inconvenient and expensive to repair,” said Philip Cynar, Pennsylvania American Water spokesperson. “However, with a little attention and basic maintenance, customers can help prevent these unexpected expenses from occurring during the holiday season.”

Just follow these five basic steps.

• Insulate Water Meter: Construct a foam box around the meter and fill it with crumpled newspaper. Wrap insulating material around pipes near the meter. If the meter is outside, make sure the lid is not broken and that it is properly insulated. Unheated indoor meters should also be insulated.

• Insulate Pipes: Protect pipes in unheated parts of the home, including crawl spaces. Wrap the pipes with insulating pipe sleeves, rags, blankets or commercial wraps.

• Open Doors Under Sink: If a sink is located against an outside wall, open cabinet doors to allow warm air to reach water pipes.

• Eliminate Drafts: Seal crawl space vents and broken windows. Make sure basement doors and windows are closed tightly. If leaving home for a few days, turn the furnace down to a lower setting, but don't turn it off.

• Drain Water Lines to Outside Faucets: Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. “It's also a good idea for customers to locate their indoor shut-off valve and tag it so that a family member can locate it quickly in an emergency,” said Cynar.

When the outside temperature drops below 20 degrees, pipes in homes without adequate insulation may freeze and break. A crack that is only an eighth of an inch wide can release 250 gallons of water in one day. This could translate to inches of water on the floor if no one is at home.

If pipes freeze, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve. Be sure everyone in the family knows where the valve is and how to open and close it. Do not attempt to thaw them with an open flame as it could start a fire. Instead, hot air from an electric hair dryer, hot towels or heat tape is recommended. Never leave a hair dryer running unattended.

The lowest temperature that a thermostat should be set is 55 degrees. Lower settings may not sufficiently warm the air where pipes are typically found – along outside walls, near windows and under cabinets.

For additional information contact Pennsylvania American Water customer service at 800-565-7292, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


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