Taking extra steps to prevent frozen pipes is important in our area, especially if temperatures stay below freezing (32 degrees F) in the day after an overnight freeze.
Here are some ways you can prepare your house’s pipes ahead of winter. The earlier you prepare, the better, in case of an unexpected freeze event:
- Insulate pipes in unheated parts of your home and save on energy costs by insulating your water heater. Insulation materials are available at local hardware stores.
- Seal any openings and air leaks in the crawl space or basement. Use cardboard, plastic, or newspaper to seal air vents if necessary. If your water heater is in your garage, keep the garage door closed as much as possible.
- Open doors on cabinets below sinks to allow warmer room air to circulate around plumbing at night.
- Be sure garden hoses are disconnected from outdoor spigots. Cover your outdoor spigots / hose bibs with Styrofoam insulating caps or alternatives.
- Make sure everyone in your home is familiar with the location of the main water shut-off valve. You will need to know where this is in case of a water emergency, like a burst pipe.
- Make sure the water meter box in your yard remains properly in place to keep cold air from freezing water inside the meter. If for any reason your water meter cover is damaged or missing, contact Charlotte Water by dialing 311.
- Unplug automatic lawn sprinkler systems. Irrigation line breaks and sprinklers spraying onto sidewalks and roadways will quickly lead to serious public safety hazards and expensive repairs. If you must irrigate your lawn this time of year, do so during daylight hours when temperatures are well above freezing.
If private pipes freeze but there are no visible leaks detected or obvious burst pipe:
- Don’t panic. It may take several hours to fix.
- Open faucets just slightly (to give melting ice/steam a place to go without added stress on the pipe) and know where to turn off the water via ‘master valve’ in case a thawing pipe bursts or begins to leak.
- Keeping your house warm, opening indoor cabinets to expose any plumbing to warmer air, and wrapping frozen spots with towels soaked in hot water can help with the thawing process.
- Look for the possible locations where your plumbing may be frozen (plumbing where pipes enter the building and before water heater like a crawl space, garage, or basement).
- The City does NOT recommend using ANY electrical appliances to heat pipes directly; doing so presents a private plumbing damage risk or the possibility of electrocution/fire/burn hazards.
- Be advised some private plumbing companies may not make home service calls simply to thaw frozen pipes. Doing so means added (and possibly unnecessary) expense to the customer and extra workload for the plumber during a period of high service call volumes due to actual burst pipe emergencies.
- If a frozen private plumbing pipe is already leaking or suddenly bursts:
- Shut off the closest available master water valve on your private plumbing.
- Call a professionally licensed plumber for assistance.
- If you live in an apartment complex and/or don’t have control over the building’s water supply, be sure to contact your landlord or building manager ASAP.
- If your private plumbing does not include a master water valve and you need your water service line shut off at the City meter connection due to a leaking or broken water line, the customer account holder will need to call CharMeck 311 (or 704-336-7600) anytime and specifically request an emergency shut-off. Even if 311 is closed, there is an option after the greeting to reach a dispatcher 24/7. Charlotte Water staff will respond as soon as they can. Once the private plumbing repair has been made, call 311 to request/confirm the restoration of water service from the meter.
Protect Your Irrigation System & Backflow Device (if you have one)
- Turn off or winterize automatic lawn sprinkler systems. Irrigation line breaks and sprinklers spraying onto sidewalks and roadways will quickly lead to serious public safety hazards and expensive repairs. If you must irrigate your lawn this time of year, do so during daylight hours when temperatures are well above freezing.
- Codes require certain types of commercial and residential water customers – those with irrigation systems, for example – to install and maintain backflow prevention assemblies at their connection. It’s important to protect your equipment from cold weather damage that can cause system leaks and high water bills.
- Prepare your backflow device for winter (best completed by December):
- The best way to prevent freezing on an irrigation backflow connection is to drain the assembly of all water for the winter. Turn off your irrigation system at the shut-off valve and drain system, open test cocks, and Shut-off valves on the assembly to discharge any water. Leave valves open 1/8 of a turn! Fully Open or Fully Closed will trap water behind the ball in the valve and that will leave the valve susceptible to freezing and damage to the valve.
- Whether your device/connection remains in use for the winter, be sure the backflow cover fits securely to the ground to prevent air infiltration. Check your cover for any cracks, holes, splits, etc.
- Wrap old blankets or beach towels around the assembly for temporary protection during the peak of the cold temperatures.
Did you know that water in the mains that travel from the water treatment plants to your home does not freeze? Learn why here.