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9 Ways You Can Prevent Water Pipes from Freezing – and What Steps to Take If They Do
Cold weather can cause serious plumbing problems without proper precautions. Water pipes can burst if the water within them freezes, and plumbing repairs to fix pipes can be very costly. The City of Hillsboro Water Department encourages customers to become familiar with their home plumbing system and recommends taking these preventative measures to lessen the risk of frozen pipes.
Prevent Frozen Pipes Early On
- Insulate pipes most susceptible to freezing, such as outdoor hose bibs, backflow prevention devices, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas – basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets. Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing.
- Drain outdoor hoses, irrigation system(s), and backflow prevention device(s).
- Cover foundation vents with foam blocks or cardboard.
- Caulk any holes or cracks that exist near pipes.
- Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
- Let faucets trickle both hot and cold water overnight. Moving water is less likely to freeze.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
- Keep the heat on and set no lower than 55 degrees.
- Protect exposed pipe from wind, which can accelerate freezing. Set up a wind block, if possible, and wrap pipes, hose bibs, and outdoor faucets with towels or insulation.
How to Safely Thaw Frozen Pipes
If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, you can suspect the pipe is frozen. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or areas where water service enters your home through the foundation. If you think you may have a frozen water line, thaw the pipe as soon as possible:
- Shut off the water at the main shut-off valve, turn on all the faucets in the house, and call a plumber immediately.
- Thaw frozen pipes by wrapping them with a thick layer of rags and pour boiling water over the rags or by using a hand-held dryer; heat slowly, starting closest to the faucet end, working toward the coldest section of the pipe.
- NEVER attempt to thaw a pipe with a torch or any other kind of open flame.
- Once the pipe is thawed, make sure to leave a little water running so the pipe does not freeze again.
What to Do in the Event of Broken Pipes
- Close your main water shut-off valve to your house. Most shut-off valves are located where the water line enters the house, usually somewhere in the garage near the hot water heater, but they can also be outside the garage or in the basement.
- Turn off the water heater if it is near empty. Locate the dedicated shut-off valve on the cold water inlet. If you don't want to turn the hot water heater off, avoid using hot water until the water inlet is back on. If the hot water heater empties and remains on, it will likely burn out and require replacement. Don't take that chance.
- Contact a plumber for repair work as broken pipes on the customer's side of the meter are the customer's responsibility.
If you need to shut your water off at the meter, contact the Hillsboro Water Department during business hours at 503-615-6700. For after-hours emergencies, call the pager at 503-615-6775 and leave your phone number. Please do not tamper with the meter yourself.