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Winter Plumbing Protection: Tips for Preventing Frozen Pipes

Freezing temperatures can lead to frozen pipes or meters, leaving homes without running water or burst pipes that cause costly damage to homes and infrastructure. To prevent frozen pipes:

  • When freezing weather is forecast, turn off inside valves that control the water supply to outside hose attachments (known as bibs). Open the outside hose bibs to allow any water in the line to drain out. Keep the valve open. Remove and drain garden hoses and drain in-ground irrigation systems.
  • Eliminate sources of cold air near pipes. Close off crawl spaces, seal drafty windows and doors, and insulate walls and attics.
  • Use insulation, pipe sleeves or newspaper to wrap pipes that are exposed to cold air.
  • During extended absences, set the thermostat to at least 55 degrees, or shut off the main water valve.
  • In severe cold, keep water moving through pipes. Turn on the faucet farthest from your main valve to a very small, steady trickle.

If pipes freeze:

  • Shut off the water immediately at the main shut-off valve.
  • Warm air around the pipes using a hair dryer. Do not use a kerosene heater, blow torch or open flame.
  • Once pipes are thawed, slowly turn the water back on. Check joints for leaks and other areas for cracks that may have resulted from the freeze.

More Tips

  • Find tips for safely shutting off water and other utilities in your home at www.ready.gov/safety-skills.
  • The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service provides tips for preventing frozen fire sprinkler pipes at ht.ly/H4KSE.
  • Freezing water can cause rain barrels to crack or deform. When freezing temperatures are forecast, store barrels in a garage or shed, or disconnect the barrel and divert water to the ground using a downspout.
  • Learn more at www.protectyourpipes.org/frozen-pipes and www.rockvillemd.gov/water.

Property owners are responsible for calling a plumber to repair frozen and broken pipes on their property and inside their buildings. If you suspect your meter might be frozen and you pay water bills to the City of Rockville, call 240-314-8567 to schedule a service call. If the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission provides water for your property, call 301-206-4002.

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