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Posted on: February 4, 2021

Extreme Cold: Avoiding Frozen Pipes

frozen pipe

In extreme sub-zero temperatures, Public Works responds to many calls for frozen pipes. To avoid this situation it is advisable to let the water run at a constant trickle until the temperature rises.  Lower lake water temperatures combined with cold air movement around plumbing fixtures can create freezing in water lines. Under these conditions, water can freeze in the lines in just a couple of hours. 

  • Allow a small trickle of water to run overnight to keep pipes from freezing. The cost of the extra water is low compared to the cost to repair a broken pipe.  The water can be used to water indoor plants and more.
  • Open cabinet doors to expose pipes to warmer room temperatures to help keep them from freezing.
  • Eliminate sources of cold air near water lines by repairing broken windows, insulating walls, closing off crawl spaces and eliminating drafts near doors.
  • Know the location of your main water shut-off valve. If a pipe freezes or bursts, shut the water off immediately.

Protect your pipes and water meter. Wrap exposed pipes with insulation or use electrical heat tracing wire; newspaper or fabric might also work.

What To Do If Your Pipes Freeze:

Shut off the water immediately. Do not attempt to thaw frozen pipes unless the water is shut off. Freezing can often cause unseen cracks in pipes or joints.

  • Apply heat to the frozen pipe by warming the air around it, or by applying heat directly to a pipe. You can use a hair dryer, space heater or hot water. Be sure not to leave space heaters unattended, and avoid the use of kerosene heaters or open flames.
  • Once the pipes have thawed, turn the water back on slowly and check for cracks and leaks.

When you are away:

  • Have a friend, relative or neighbor regularly check your property to ensure that the heat is working and the pipes have not frozen.
  • Also, a freeze alarm can be purchased for less than $100 and will call a user-selected phone number if the inside temperature drops below 45 degrees.


cold pipe infographic (JPG)

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