Preparing Pipes for Winter Weather

As winter weather quickly approaches and the temperature out side continues to fall, the New Jersey American Water urges residents to take action now to protect their pipes from frigid winter weather, to help prevent potential costly plumbing repairs. 

Preparation before cold weather sets in should include:

  • Making sure everyone in your home knows where the main water shut-off valve is located so you can turn off the water in an emergency. When you locate the valve, mark it with an identification tag. The valve is typically located where the water line enters the home. This could be in the basement, crawlspace, or utility closet;
  • Check for pipes that pass through unheated spaces or rooms, such as crawlspaces, basements, garages, or uninsulated exterior walls. Protect exposed pipes by wrapping them with heat tape, pre-molded foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation, available at hardware stores. If you have installed heat tape on exposed pipes, inspect the tape for cracks or fraying and make any needed repairs;
  • If your water meter is outside, make sure your meter lid is closed tightly;
  • Eliminate sources of cold air near pipes by sealing openings or cracks that could cause drafts. Close air vents in crawlspaces;
  • Drain all outdoor garden hoses, roll them up and store them inside to prevent cracking. If you have an indoor valve for the outside faucet(s), shut it off and drain water from pipes leading to the faucet(s);
  • Winterize and turn off and drain your irrigation system;
  •  If you are going to be away for a few days or more, leave your thermostat at 55 degrees to prevent freezing. If no one will be home for an extended period of time during the winter months, consider contacting New Jersey American Water at (800) 272-1325 to turn your water off and hire a plumber to drain your system. By doing this, there will be no water in your pipes to freeze if your furnace stops working.

When temperatures consistently fall below freezing:

  • For kitchen or other sinks up against cold, exterior walls, open cabinets to let warm air in your home reach the pipes;
  • Allow a small trickle of water to run overnight to keep pipes from freezing. The cost of the extra water is typically lower than the cost of repairing a broken pipe;
  • If your pipes do freeze, shut off the water immediately. Don’t attempt to thaw frozen pipes unless the water is shut off;
  • Freezing can often cause unseen cracks in pipes or joints that will leak when thawed;
  • Apply heat to a frozen pipe by warming the air around it. Avoid the use of kerosene heaters or open flames;
  • Once the pipes have thawed, slowly turn the water back on and check for cracks and leaks. 

Avoid Costly Repairs

  • If your water meter is located in your home and freezes, the homeowner/business is responsible for the cost to replace or repair the meter. With a little attention and basic maintenance, you can help prevent pipes and meters from freezing in your home. 

Report Leaking Pipes 

  • If you are experiencing a leak or notice that your water service is disrupted, please contact the Madison Water Department at (973) 593-3092;
  • Sub-freezing temperatures can hasten aging water mains to break and cause unsafe driving conditions.