Protect pipes from freezing before bitter cold arrives

November 20, 2010

By Staff

NEW — 8 a.m. Nov. 20, 2010

With freezing temperatures forecast for Thanksgiving week in Western Washington, residents should take steps ASAP to protect pipes from freezing.

National Weather Service forecasters said cold air moving into the state in the days ahead could bring a chance of snow at lower elevations. Temperatures in the region could drop into the 20s and 30s into early next week.

The cost of a frozen and broken pipe can be more than just the cost of a plumber. Residents might be forced to go without water until the leak is repaired. If no one is home as the pipe thaws, flooding and property damage could lead to sizable repair costs and inconvenience.

Seattle Public Utilities offers tips to help prevent costly damage and repairs from frozen pipes:

  • Prepare your water pipes ahead of time. Shut off outside faucets, drain the water and protect them by insulating them with foam covers.
  • If you plan to go away, or if you have renters or own a vacant property, ask a friend or neighbor to check your house daily to make sure it’s warm enough to prevent freezing — or shut off and drain the water system. If you have a fire protection sprinkler system in your house, it will be deactivated when you shut off the water.
  • Drain and remove all outdoor hoses, and shut off and drain in-ground sprinkler systems.
  • Pipes in exposed or unheated areas (such as attics, basements and garages) should be wrapped with tape and insulating materials, available at local hardware stores.
  • Property owners should check for any exposed pipes in unheated areas, such as basements, garages, attics and crawlspaces.
  • After the temperature drops below freezing, protect indoor sink pipes against exterior walls by opening under-sink cabinet doors to allow heat to circulate. During severe cold, allow the faucet farthest from your front door to slowly drip cold water. Set your thermostat no lower than 55 degrees, day or night (even if you are not home).
  • Do not leave water running in unoccupied buildings. If the drain should plug, it could cause a flood.
  • Please do not use hair dryers to thaw frozen pipes — you face the risk of electrocution!
  • If a water pipe breaks, immediately close the main shut-off valve to stop flooding.
  • Businesses with above-ground, outdoor fire services should take steps to prevent the pipes from freezing. These services can be protected with heat tape, available at hardware stores.
  • In the event of snow, residents should help keep street drains clear by removing snow and other debris if the removal can be done safely. As the snow melts, blockages in the gutters or drains can hinder runoff, increase the risk of flooding and make commutes more difficult.
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