ALEXANDRIA, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Every winter, thousands of homeowners in the Metro-DC area lose water service due to frozen pipes or frozen meters. As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Virginia American Water therefore offers area homeowners the following tips to make sure their homes are prepared for winter weather, as well as to ensure access to fire hydrants for public safety.
“It may be warm now, but the frigid air will arrive soon so we want to remind customers that sub-freezing temperatures can cause pipes in vulnerable areas to freeze and burst, resulting in costly damage,” Virginia American Water President Barry Suits said. “Many property owners may not realize they are responsible for maintenance of the water service line from the curb to the house, as well as any in-home piping, so by taking the proper steps now, customers can avoid the expense and inconvenience of damaged plumbing inside and outside of the home.”
Before frigid weather sets in:
- Know the location of your main water shut-off valve. If a pipe freezes or bursts, shut the water off immediately.
- Protect your pipes and water meter. Wrap exposed pipes with insulation or use electrical heat tracing wire — follow manufacturer instructions closely to avoid a fire hazard. For outside meters, keep the lid to the meter pit closed tightly and let any snow that falls cover it. Snow acts as insulation, so don’t disturb it.
- Know which areas in your home, such as basements, crawl spaces, unheated rooms and outside walls, are most vulnerable.
- Eliminate cold air sources near water lines by repairing broken windows, insulating walls, closing off crawl spaces and eliminating drafts near doors.
When temperatures are consistently at or below freezing:
- Allow a small trickle of water from both your cold and hot water faucets to run overnight to keep pipes and meters from freezing. The cost of the extra water is low compared to the cost to repair a broken pipe. Replacing a water meter can also cost more than $100. Customers should implement wise water use practices and collect the running water for later use.
- Open cabinet doors to expose pipes to warmer room temperatures to help keep them from freezing, although be careful to not create a tripping hazard.
If your pipes do freeze:
- Shut your water off immediately. Don’t attempt to thaw frozen pipes unless the water is shut off, as freezing can often cause unseen cracks in pipes or joints.
- Apply heat to frozen pipe by warming the air around it or applying heat directly to the pipe. You can use a hair dryer, space heater or hot water. Be sure to not leave space heaters unattended and avoid the use of kerosene heaters or open flames.
- Once the pipes have thawed, turn the water back on slowly and check for cracks and leaks.
If you are going to be away from your home for more than a few days:
- Have a friend, relative or neighbor regularly check your property to ensure that the heat is working and the pipes have not frozen.
- Also, a freeze alarm can be purchased for less than $100 and will call a user-selected phone number if the inside temperature drops below 45 degrees.
In addition to pipes indoors, customers can help protect their own and their neighbors’ homes by keeping fire hydrants clear of snow. Substantial snow accumulations combined with the after-effects of plowing roads and parking lots can leave fire hydrants partially or completely buried in snow. Clearing hydrants can help firefighters easily locate them and access water quickly, saving valuable time to possibly save lives and structures.
Also be sure that your water service provider and other utility companies have the correct phone number to reach you in an emergency. Virginia American Water customers can manage their account information online at My H2O Online at www.amwater.com/myh2o. Customers should also consider following their utility service providers on social media as well to get the latest updates on their computer or smartphone. For more tips and information, visit or follow us at www.facebook.com/vaamwater and www.twitter.com/vaamwater.
Virginia American Water, a subsidiary of American Water (NYSE: AWK), is the largest investor-owned water utility in the state, providing high-quality and reliable water services to approximately 339,000 people in Alexandria, Dale City, Hopewell and the Northern Neck. Founded in 1886, American Water is the largest and most geographically diverse publicly traded U.S. water and wastewater utility company. Headquartered in Voorhees, N.J., the company employs 6,800 dedicated professionals who provide regulated and market-based drinking water, wastewater and other related services to an estimated 15 million people in 47 states and Ontario, Canada. More at www.amwater.com.