Preventing Frozen Water Meters and Pipes

It is inconvenient to be without water service. This inconvenience can be compounded during the winter months if your water meter or pipes have frozen. Plumbing repairs and property damage caused by frozen pipes bursting can be both widespread and expensive. You can avoid these problems by taking preventive measures to protect your plumbing before and after the onset of freezing weather. They include:

  • Disconnect and drain outdoor hoses to allow water to drain from the pipe.
  • Eliminate Drafts – Take measures to prevent the flow of cold air into your basement or crawl space. Make sure that basement or crawlspace vents to the outside are closed and windows and doors create a tight seal. Repair broken glass in basement windows, and seal cracks in basement and crawl space masonry walls. Protect outside pipes and spigots, and wrap all pipes that are in unheated areas. Do not try to insulate or open meter boxes; these attempts will increase the risk of freezing and slow the thawing process.
  • Expose Pipes to Warm Air – In heated buildings, during freezing weather, you can open cupboard doors below sinks in the kitchen and bathroom to get additional heat to water lines in those areas. This is most useful for sinks on an outside wall.
  • Let It Run – When it is very cold (10 degrees or less) let cold water run in a fast drip or a steady stream about the size of a pencil lead from a bathroom and/or kitchen faucet. This movement of water through your system can help keep your pipes and plumbing fixtures from freezing.
  • Turn Water Off at Master Valve – If your home is without heat or if you are going to be gone an extended length of time, it is advisable that you turn your water off at the master valve and drain the plumbing and service line. Do not forget to turn off the water heater and icemaker.
  • During extended absences away from home, leave the heat on to avoid broken pipes inside the home.

If you have no water and suspect a frozen meter:

  • Do not attempt to thaw the meter.
  • Call the Utilities Department at 785-832-7800, 24/7 and a field representative will come out and thaw the meter.

If your pipes freeze, take the following actions:

  • Before starting the thawing process, locate your master valve and be prepared to turn it off. The line you are thawing may already be broken, cracked or split. Water could come gushing out once the line thaws.
  • Thaw lines safely by using a hair dryer! With the dryer on a low heat setting, wave the warm air back and forth along the line. It’s a slow but safe process. Remember not to overload electrical circuits with too many devices.
  • Don’t use an open flame to thaw frozen lines. Open flames can be a fire hazard and overheating a single spot can burst a pipe.
  • If none of your faucets or fixtures are working and you cannot determine where the lines are frozen, your service line may be frozen. Call 785-832-7800, 24/7 and a field representative will come out and turn the service off until repairs can be made.
  • Call a licensed plumber!

If a pipe or pipes have already broken:

  • Shut off the water at the master valve (meter box customer’s valve if the service line is broken) and turn off the water heater and icemaker! If you can’t find the master valve, or if the valve does not work and water is leaking in the house, call 785-832-7800, 24/7 and a field representative will come out and turn the service off until repairs can be made.
  • Call a licensed plumber!