Find Your Main Water Shut-Off Valve And Other Cold Weather Tips

That chill in the air reminds us that winter is near, and that homeowners must begin taking steps now to protect their water pipes from freezing temperatures.

“New Jersey American Water encourages homeowners to take special care to insulate their pipes from freezing weather to avoid property damage,” said Bill Varley, president of New Jersey American Water. “By weatherproofing your home, you can save money on your winter energy bills and guard against potential breaks and leaks in your indoor plumbing. Just a few precautionary steps can save you major headaches in the long run.”

New Jersey American Water encourages its customers to take the following precautions to reduce the risk of freezing pipes that can burst.

Preparing for Cold Weather
  • Make sure everyone in your home knows where the main water shut-off valve is located so you can turn off the water in an emergency. When you locate the valve, mark it with an identification tag.
  • Search for uninsulated pipes or pipes that pass through unheated spaces or rooms, such as crawl spaces, basements or garages. Protect exposed pipes by wrapping them with heat tape, pre-molded foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation, available at hardware stores. If you have installed heat tape on exposed pipes, inspect the tape for cracks or fraying and make any needed repairs.
  • If your meter is outside, make sure your meter lid is closed tightly and let any snow that falls cover it. Snow acts as insulation, so don’t disturb it.
  • Eliminate sources of cold air near lines by fixing windows, insulating walls, closing crawl spaces and eliminating drafts.
  • Set your water heater temperature to about 120 degrees and install inexpensive low-flow shower heads to reduce hot water use. Lowering the temperature to 120 degrees can reduce water heating costs.
  • Drain all outdoor garden hoses, roll them up and store them inside to prevent cracking. If you have an indoor valve for the outside faucet(s), shut it off and drain water from pipes leading to the faucet(s).
  • Drain any hoses and air conditioner pipes, and check for excess water pooled in equipment. If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, bleed the valves by opening them slightly. Close them when water appears.
  • Turn off and drain your irrigation system.
  • Add extra insulation to the attic to prevent warm air from creeping into your roof, causing ice damage to the roof and gutters.
  • Clean out gutters and downspouts to remove debris that can freeze and cause clogs during cold weather.
  • If no one will be home for an extended period of time during extreme winter weather: Consider contacting New Jersey American Water at 800-652-6987 to turn your water off altogether and hiring a plumber to drain your system. That way, if your furnace stops working, there will be no water in your pipes to freeze.

When temperatures consistently fall below freezing
  • For kitchen or other sinks up against cold, exterior walls, open cabinets to let warm air in your home reach the pipes.
  • Allow a small trickle of water to run overnight to keep pipes from freezing. The cost of the extra water is typically lower than the cost of repairing a broken pipe.

If your pipes freeze
  • 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 a frozen pipe by warming the air around it. Avoid the use of kerosene heaters or open flames.
  • Once the pipes have thawed, slowly turn the water back on and check for cracks and leaks.

Avoid Costly Repairs
  • If the meter freezes, the homeowner/business is responsible for the cost to replace or repair the meter. With a little attention and basic maintenance, you can help prevent pipes and meters from freezing in your home. The cost to replace a meter is based on the size of the meter. For more information, please contact our Customer Service Center at the number listed on the bottom of your bill.

More cold weather tips can be found at

New Jersey American Water, a wholly owned subsidiary of American Water (NYSE: AWK) is the largest investor-owned water utility in the state, providing high-quality and reliable water and/or wastewater services to approximately 2.5 million people. Founded in 1886, American Water is the largest publicly traded U.S. water and wastewater utility company. With headquarters in Voorhees, N.J., the company employs approximately 6,700 dedicated professionals who provide drinking water, wastewater and other related services to an estimated 14 million people in more than 30 states, as well as parts of Canada. More information can be found by visiting

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