The following steps can help you avoid costly water damage when temperatures plunge.
Before cold weather sets in:
Identify your home’s freezing points. Check your home for pipes in areas that might be prone to freezing, such as crawl spaces, unheated rooms, basements, garages, and exterior walls.
Locate your main shut-off valve. In case of an emergency, you will need to know where your main shut-off valve is located inside the house, and where your curb stop shut-off valve is located outside. If you have an inside meter set, knowing where your curb stop box is located can save you from incurring water damage if there is a leak on your service line.
Strengthen your defenses. Eliminate sources of cold air near water lines by closing off crawl spaces, fixing drafty windows, insulating walls and attics, and plugging drafts around doors.
Protect your pipes. Insulate exposed and unprotected pipes by wrapping them with insulation or heat tape. Seal any cracks or holes in your walls using foam installation or caulk.
When temperatures stay below freezing:
Keep the heater on. Keep the thermostat set at no lower than 55°F when you are away from home. Never turn your heater all the way off. If temperatures are below zero, keep the thermostat set now lower than 60°F.
Keep interior doors open. If pipes run though cabinets or vanities, open the doors to let warmer room temperatures flow in.
Keep garage doors closed. If you have water supply lines located in your garage be sure to keep your garage closed as much as possible to limit pipe exposure to freezing temps.
Allow faucet to drip. Keep water moving through the pipes by allowing a very small trickle of water to run. The cost of the extra water is typically lower than the cost of repairing a broken pipe.
If your pipes do freeze:
Shut off water immediately. Do not attempt to thaw pipes without turning off the main shut-off valve. Water can rush out of the pipes as it thaws.
Thaw pipes with warm air. You can melt the frozen water in the pipe by warming the air around it with a hair dryer or space heater. DO NOT USE a blow torch! Warming pipes too fast could cause a break!
Be careful turning water back on. Once the pipes are thawed, slowly turn the water back on and check pipes and joints for any cracks or leaks that might have been caused by freezing.