Leaving household water pipes unprotected in freezing temperatures can bring major plumbing headaches this spring. To help its customers prepare for the colder months, New Jersey American Water offers the following guidelines to customers leaving their homes for the winter and in particular, those customers whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Sandy last month:
- Unoccupied residences without heat should shut off water service at the main valve inside the home. Water should be drained completely, including heating systems. A loss of power could cause pipes to freeze.
If you choose to leave the water service on during a time when the house is unoccupied:
- Set the thermostat at 55 degrees if. Although you may be able to get away with a lower temperature, this setting is considered to be safe for pipes.
- Search your house for un-insulated pipes, especially in unheated areas. Consider wrapping pipes to insulate them from freezing temperatures.
- Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations, especially where cable TV or phone lines enter the house, with caulking to keep cold winds away from pipes.
- If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, bleed the valves by opening them slightly. Close them when water appears.
- Make certain that the water to your hose bibs is shut off inside your house (via a turnoff valve), and that the lines are drained.
“We hope that homeowners would follow these tips to avoid situations where their pipes freeze and could burst in cold weather and lead to costly repair bills,” said Stephen Schmitt, New Jersey American Water vice president of operations.
If one’s pipes do freeze, New Jersey American Water recommends that customers:
- Shut off the water immediately. Don’t attempt to thaw frozen pipes unless the water is shut off. Freezing can often cause unseen cracks in pipes or joints that will leak when thawed.
- Apply heat to the frozen pipe by warming the air around it (such as with a hair dryer). Avoid the use of kerosene heaters or open flames.
- Turn back water on slowly once pipes are thawed and check for cracks and leaks.