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A reminder to protect yourself and your pipes!

Wilmington, NC (January 27, 2014):  As the region prepares for another winter storm this week, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) wants to take this opportunity to remind everyone of how they can prepare their homes to prevent their pipes from freezing.  Significant cold snaps that place household pipes at risk in this region are rare.  However, with temperatures predicted to be well below freezing for an extended period of time, we wanted to take a moment to provide a few easy steps people can take to lower the risk that their pipes will freeze.  For homeowners who have had past pipe issues, these tips can make the difference between this cold snap being a nuisance or an expensive event.

The expansion of frozen water can put tremendous stress on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes.  Usually the pipes that freeze are exposed to severe cold weather, like outdoor hose bibs or water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like garages or kitchen cabinets.  Here are a few preventive measures that can help this week:

  • Tightly close doors and windows to the outside.
  • Insulate pipes in unheated or drafty areas. Hardware and plumbing supply stores carry insulation to keep pipes from freezing.
  • Shut off and drain the pipes leading to your outside faucets so no water is left to freeze, expand and cause a leak in these lines.
  • Close the inside valves and drain the pipes leading to your outside hose bib (faucet).
  • Know where your main shut off valve is and label it.  Minimize the potential for water damage by ensuring that everyone in the household knows how to shut off the water in case of an emergency.

 For a significant cold snap like this one, people may want to consider the following tips:

  • Open the cabinets beneath any place with a water supply, such as the kitchen and bathroom sinks. This will allow warm air to circulate. (Remove any toxic substances first if there are small children or pets in the home.)
  • To prevent your pipes from freezing, allow a faucet to drip cold water slowly. The faucet you choose should be the one that is the greatest distance from your main water shut off valve.  It does NOT need to be a running trickle.
  • [We have heard from some customers who are concerned about the cost of leaving their faucet dripping.  The uniform rate for water usage amounts to just over .3 cents a gallon (three-tenths of a cent).  A moderate drip equaling one drip every two seconds results in just under one gallon of additional water usage per day.] 

If someone turns on a faucet and only have a trickle of water coming out or no water at all and it has been very cold for a period of time, suspect a frozen pipe or meter and take these steps:

  • Identify whether the problem is throughout the house or in one area.  If it’s only in one area of your household, you may be able to thaw the pipe by opening the cabinets and allowing the warmer air to circulate around the pipes.
  • NEVER thaw a pipe with an open flame. You can use a hair dryer on low or a portable heater.  Avoid using electrical appliances if there is standing water.
  • Use warm water to soak towels then wrap the towels around the frozen pipes.
  • If the problem persists, contact a licensed plumber for additional guidance.

Source: Cape Fear Public Utility Authority.