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Tips for Keeping Water Pipes, Meters From Freezing

The water authority will charge you for repairs to a meter if it is not protected from the cold.

Water authority executive director Pamela Marchand. Credit: W.Rupp
Water authority executive director Pamela Marchand. Credit: W.Rupp

The Bristol County Water Authority released some tips today on keeping water pipes and meters from freezing, which could cost you some money.

Pipes that are not insulated are at risk of freezing when temperatures reach 20 degrees and below, according to Pamela Marchand, executive director of the water authority. 

Additionally, some pipes that are exposed to flowing air can freeze at temperatures closer to 30 degrees, according to Marchand.

“The freezing of pipes is due to the loss of heat from the pipe to the cold air around it,” she said. “To stop freezing from occurring, you have to stop the transfer of heat.”

“Frozen water pipes are inconvenient and costly to repair,” Marchand said. “The meter that is located just inside of your building, where the water pipe comes through the wall, is also subject to freezing, and you will be charged for a repair if it is not protected from the cold.”  

Here are five ways to prevent both frozen pipes and meters:
  1. Seal all the openings where cold air may get in to pipes.  Check for open basement windows and unheated spaces. Don’t set thermostats below 55 degrees if very low temperatures are expected.
  2. Insulate all water pipes from cold moving air and keep them dry. Locate the main water shut off in case you need it. Leaks often happen once the pipe is thawed out.
  3. Use either heater tapes wrapped around the pipes or a heated reflector lamp in a dry enclosed space. On cold nights, check the light to see that it is working. The heater tapes work by a built-in thermostat. In order to work, the tape must be wrapped between the pipe and the insulation.
  4. If un-insulated pipes are exposed to an outside wall when it is very cold, let the water run at a slow constant flow, about the size of a pencil; this is cheaper than repairing it.
  5. Leave cabinet doors in kitchen and bathrooms open to allow warmer air to circulate around pipes.

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