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Utilities offer tips for preventing frozen pipes and meters

Jan 2, 2018

Frozen Potomac River (Erin Schaff/Flickr).

Throughout this period of extreme cold, area water utilities are urging homeowners to prevent frozen pipes and meters by taking the following steps: 

  • Set your thermostat above 55 degrees, especially if you will be away for an extended time.
  • Turn on the faucet farthest away from your main valve to a small, steady trickle.
  • Warm pipes in cupboards and vanities by opening the doors.
  • Wrap pipes with insulation or even newspaper if they are exposed to cold air.
  • Close off crawl spaces, seal drafty windows and doors, and insulate walls and attics to eliminate cold air sources near pipes.

No water coming from your tap?

  • Your water meter or pipes may be frozen.

If your meter freezes:

  • Call your water utility’s customer service line immediately if you think your meter is frozen.
  • Do not thaw your water meter. This can result in extensive damage.
  • Water utilities will replace outside water meters. It is their responsibility.
  • Water meters located inside or outside homes and buildings may freeze when temperatures fall below freezing.

If your pipes freeze:

  • First, check with a neighbor to see if they’re experiencing the same issue. If they have a loss of water too, it may be the result of a main break. But if they have running water, it’s likely your pipes have frozen.
  • Do not apply direct heat to the pipes. If your pipes freeze, melt the frozen water by warming the air around the pipes or wrapping the pipes in a warm towel.
  • Make sure the faucet is turned on so melting water can drip out.
  • After your pipes have thawed, look to see if your pipes are cracked or damaged and make sure to take necessary precautions to prevent freezing from happening again.
  • Leaks or pools of water from pipes means there was a burst or crack.
  • Call a plumbing professional if you suspect a burst pipe or can’t find the frozen section.​

How do I find my main water shut off valve?

  • Look for the main valve where the water supply enters your house (usually in the basement) or in a concrete box near the street.
  • If the valve is outside your house, lift the cover with a large screwdriver.
  • Use a pipe or crescent wrench to turn off the water.
  • Mark the shut-off valve with fluorescent paint or tape so you can find it in the dark.

If you suspect your meter might be frozen or that a pipe burst in your community/neighborhood, contact your local water utility:

MORE: DC Water crews respond to nearly 50 emergencies across the District

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