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frozen pipes

With the forecast of record-breaking cold temperatures for tonight and tomorrow night (Monday and Tuesday), Chatham County urges customers to protect their water pipes from freezing. Frozen pipes can burst and cause substantial damage if a large amount of water is released in a home or business.

Below is a list of precautions for protecting water pipes:

Seal Openings & Leaks— Pipes in unheated areas of a house, typically the crawl space and/or basement, have the greatest chance of freezing. Therefore, it is important to seal openings and air leaks in the crawl space or basement, including access doors, air vents in the foundation, and cracks.

You can use insulation or even cardboard, plastic or newspaper to close and seal cracks and other openings. Keep the cold out as much as possible. Your foundation air vents may have hinged covers so the vents can easily be closed.

Trickle of Water— Leave a trickle of water running continuously from the faucet highest in the house. The trickle should be a steady stream the size of a pencil tip, which will only cost a few cents to leave running overnight.

Chatham County strongly supports and encourages conservation. However, water supplies are adequate this time of year, so using a very small amount of water to help prevent pipes from freezing and bursting is a wise precaution. Broken water pipes can cause substantial water loss as well as property damage.

Meter Box Cover— Make sure the water meter cover on your property is closed to prevent cold air from freezing water inside the meter. If the cover of your water meter is broken or missing, please call Chatham County Utilities at 919-542-8270.

Heating Failure— If the heat fails long enough for your house or other building to get close to freezing temperature, or if you have a vacant building with the heat off:

  • Turn off the water at the master shut-off valve in your plumbing system. Your shut-off valve may be in the basement, crawlspace or closet where water pipes enter the building. If you do not have a master shut-off valve in your plumbing system, consider installing one for future use. It is important to note that if you contact Chatham County Utilities at 919-542-8270 to have water shut off at the county’s meter, you will be charged a fee.
  • Before draining pipes, turn off your water heater to make sure the lack of water doesn’t burn out the heating elements.
  • Drain the pipes in your plumbing system by opening the highest and lowest cold water faucets in your house until the water is gone. Before turning on the hot water heater again, wait until water service is restored and the hot water tank is refilled.

Frozen Pipes— If your water pipes do freeze over:

  • 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.
  • Apply heat to a frozen pipe by warming the air around it or by applying heat directly to a pipe. You can use a hair dryer, space heater, or hot water. Be sure not to leave space heaters unattended, and avoid using kerosene heaters or open flames. Once the pipes have thawed, turn the water on slowly and check for cracks and leaks.

Irrigation Systems: If freezing temperatures are in the forecast, make sure you have winterized your outdoor irrigation system. By removing water from the pipes, valves and sprinkler heads, contractors can protect systems from potentially serious damage in cold weather. Without these precautions, valves can crack, system mains can freeze and burst, and back flows can create damage. Anything that is pressurized can cause damage to the system if you don’t winterize it. Please contact your local irrigation specialist for more information.