Helping your water pipes cope with freezing temperatures

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 11:30

The City of Winchester Public Utilities division offers the below tips in preventing and dealing with frozen water pipes.

Household Pipes

  • Detach outdoor hoses from faucets, allowing connecting pipes to drain. Otherwise, a single hard, overnight freeze can burst a faucet or the pipe to which it is connected.
  • Pipes or faucets in unheated areas such as garages, crawl spaces, and basements should be insulated. Hardware and building supply stores have good pipe wrapping materials available. Customers should consider installing heat tape, heat cable, or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Only UL-listed products should be used, and manufacturer's instructions should be carefully followed.
  • If you have pipes vulnerable to freezing, you should allow a small trickle of water to run overnight to prevent freezing. The cost of the extra water is low compared with the cost of repairing a broken pipe. In addition, customers can open cabinet doors to expose pipes to warmer room temperatures to help keep the pipes from freezing. This is particularly helpful if the pipes are located on an outside wall.
  • Seal off access doors, air vents, and cracks as well as repair basement windows. Winter winds whistling through overlooked openings can quickly freeze exposed water pipes. However, take care not to block furnace or water heater vents needed for good combustion.
  • Know where the master shutoff valve is located before there is an emergency. It is most likely where the water line comes into the home from the street.  If it isn’t there, it may be near the water heater or washing machine. If a pipe bursts anywhere in the house the master valve turns off all the water supplied to the home.

Report Leaking Pipes

Subfreezing temperatures can also hasten breaks in aging water mains and cause unsafe driving conditions.  Please report suspected leaks to Public Services Department (Utilities Division):

  • Daytime Contact
    • Monday-Friday, 7:00 am-4:00 pm
    • Utilities Maintenance Headquarters: (540) 662-5353
  • Emergency Hotline
    • (540) 686-7173

What If It Is Too Late?

  • Never use a torch with an open flame to thaw frozen pipes. This could cause a fire, or overheat a single spot causing the pipe to burst. Additionally, heating a solder joint could cause the pipe to leak or come apart.
  • Using the low setting on a hair dryer is the safest way to thaw a frozen pipe. Waving the warm air back and forth along a pipe is safer than concentrating on a single spot. If a hairdryer isn't handy, customers can wrap the frozen section with rags or towels and pour hot water over them. It's messy, but it works.
  • Be ready to quickly turn off the master shutoff valve. When the pipe is thawed, water will come gushing out of a broken pipe.

Fire Hydrants

Substantial snow accumulations combined with the after-effects of plowing roads and parking lots can leave fire hydrants partially or completely buried in snow. If customers have a hydrant on or near their property, they should take a few minutes to clear away the snow. Unobstructed access to fire hydrants is critical in the event of a fire emergency. By keeping fire hydrant clear of snow, the public can help firefighters easily locate hydrants and quickly access water, preserving valuable time to potentially save lives and structures.

Adopt-A-Hydrant Program