Helpful tips and tricks for protecting water pipes during cold weather at your home or business

The Birmingham Water Works Board has provided several tips for protecting your water pipes at your home and/or business during cold weather and freezing temperatures.

Check out ABC 33/40's 7-day planner to see the expected temperatures across Alabama.

Tips for Protecting Pipes:

To prevent frozen pipes, the BWWB recommends letting your hot and coldfaucets drip overnight, and opening cabinet doors to allow heat to reachuninsulated pipes under sinks on exterior walls.

Locate the water shut-off valve in your home in advance of a water emergency, soyou know where to go if a pipe bursts.

Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off anddrain water from pipes leading to outside faucets.

If you're going away for an extended period of time, be sure to maintain adequateheat inside your home at no lower than 55 degrees.

Don't place a space heater within three feet of anything combustible.

Program your local utility contact information into your cell phone now, beforeyou need them.

Tips to prevent water pipes and plumbing from freezing at your home or business:

Check your property for all exposed pipes that carry water. This includes outdoorfaucets, bibs and valves.

Use foam or wrap insulation (available from plumbing supply and homeimprovement stores) to protect pipes from freezing. Inspect your existinginsulation, especially in areas that are exposed to the elements.

Temporary insulation (towels, blankets, newspaper, etc.) is better than nothing.

Seal all areas that allow cold outside air to get in where pipes are located.

Newer homes may have poly piping in the attic which may also need to beinsulated.

Remove, drain and store outdoor hoses inside.

Consider letting cold water drip from a faucet during times of extremely frigidtemperatures.

If your dishwasher has a timer on it, consider loading it and programming thecycle for the time of night prior to temperatures dropping below freezing. Similarefforts can be made with indoor washing machines, though these may require amanual start.

Tips to protect your irrigation system:

Consult your owner/operator manual for how to "winterize" your irrigationsystem.

Insulate the main shut-off valve. Note: If there is none, consider installing a valveas a preventative investment.

Insulate all above-ground lines and piping.

Consider whether you wish to shut down automatic controller/timer and shut offwater supply to system. This may include draining remaining water andreprogramming operations.

Consult your owner/operator manual.

Tips for frozen pipes:

Be patient. There is no quick remedy.

Any area that is exposed is the likely point where a freeze took place. There mayalso be more than one frozen spot.

Pipe(s) will need to gradually warm up. Use something to blow warm air (such asa hair dryer or vacuum cleaner canister) on the frozen section to begin thewarming process. Wave the warm air back and forth on the pipe. Keep a faucet inyour home in the 'on' position during thawing to prevent a slug of water fromgoing through and causing more damage.

Do not pour hot water over a frozen pipe or do anything that would cause a rapidrise in temperature (the difference in degrees between that of the frozen pipe andthe material used to try to thaw it).

Do not use open flame torches to thaw due to risk of fire or further damage topipes.

If there is a burst or water is already leaking from plumbing, turn off the water atthe main supply valve to the home or business.

Important Reminders:

When you wrap pipes, the water will be cooler in the summer months andwarmer in the winter months. You are also conserving water because its running time isnow lessened before it reaches the desired temperature. If you have to turn off the water to your home or business, do so at the shut-off valve, not at the water meter.

If you need the water meter valve turned off, call the BWWB's Customer Service at(205) 244-4000.

Learn where your shut-off valve is located in case you need to turn offthe water in an emergency situation.

Locate your water meter. Most are located at the front of a home or business near thesidewalk or at in the rear, such as an alley.

Remove the lid. Behind the meter, on the side closest to your home or business, youshould find either a gate valve or a ball valve. To close a gate valve, turn to the right; toclose a ball valve, turn 14 of the way to the right.

If you cannot see or turn the valve, call the BWWB. We will respond as soon as staffis available. Call our Customer Service number at (205) 244-4000.

Call a plumber for assistance if the break is on your property (between the meter andyour home or business or if inside your home or business).

For more information, visit the BWWB website at

Sources: Environmental Protection Agency and various water utilities