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Tips to Protect Your Water Pipes in Cold Weather

December 22, 2022

Winter can be harsh on household plumbing. Pipes that are located on outside walls, in basements or in crawl spaces are particularly vulnerable to the cold. They can easily freeze and break during cold spells and lead to costly repairs. Here are some tips from the St. Peters Utilities Department to help protect your water pipes during cold weather:

  1. Close outside vents, crawl spaces and doors so cold air doesn’t seep inside.
  2. Wrap water pipes subject to cold or freezing in heat tape available from hardware stores. 
  3. Make sure that everyone in your home knows where the shut-off valve is and how to operate it in an emergency.
  4. If a sink is located against an outside wall, open the cabinet doors overnight to allow warm air to reach water pipes.
  5. If you have had problems with frozen pipes in the past, keep a trickle of water running from the highest faucet in your house. During extremely cold periods, this trickle should be the size of a pencil point. You will be billed for the water used but this procedure may help prevent more costly plumbing repairs resulting from broken pipes.
  6. Periodically run other faucets that don’t get a lot of use such as spare showers and tubs.
  7. If you’re going away, keep a minimum amount of heat on in the house. This will help protect the pipes in case the temperature drops.
  8. Keep garage doors closed, especially if there are water lines in the garage.
  9. If you plan to turn the heat off, drain all the water from your pipes, toilets and water heater. Turn off the power source to the water heater. If your heater operates on gas, turn the heater on pilot.


Thawing Frozen Pipes

  1. It’s important to clear frozen blockages as soon as possible to minimize the danger of pipes bursting in some inaccessible spot. 
  2. If a water pipe has frozen and burst, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve in the house.
  3. Open a nearby faucet slightly so the pipe can drain as it thaws.
  4. Thaw pipes by applying hot air from a hair dryer or electric heater, or by using a heating pad or wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water.
  5. Never use hot water or a blowtorch on a frozen pipe.
  6. Do not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water.