The teens are coming, keep your pipes from freezing

WILMINGTON — With a significant cold front entering the area, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority has issued a list of things residents can do to prevent frozen and burst pipes over the weekend.

The National Weather Service in Wilmington is predicting temperatures will be in the in the upper teens and 20s on Sunday, and in the teens Monday.

“While cold snaps that place household pipes at risk are rare here, temperatures are predicted to be well below freezing throughout the weekend and into the first part of next week,” a release from the CFPUA states. “Frozen water expands, putting tremendous stress on the metal or plastic pipes containing it. Usually the pipes that freeze are exposed to the cold, like outdoor hose bibs or water supply pipes in unheated, interior areas like garages or kitchen cabinets.”

The agency provided the following tips to keep pipes safe:

  • Tightly close doors and windows to the outside.
  • Insulate pipes in unheated or drafty areas. Hardware and plumbing supply stores carry insulation to keep pipes from freezing.
  • Shut off and drain the pipes leading to outside faucets. Water in these lines can freeze and expand, causing leaks.
  • Close the inside valves and drain the pipes leading to your outside hose bibs (faucets).
  • Know where your main shut off valve is and label it. Minimize the potential for water damage by ensuring that everyone in the household knows how to shut off the water in case of an emergency.
  • Open the cabinets beneath any place with a water supply, such as the kitchen and bathroom sinks. This will allow warm air to circulate.  Residents with children and pets are reminded to remove any toxic substances first.
  • To prevent pipes from freezing, allow one faucet, preferably the one that is the greatest distance from the main water shut off valve, to drip cold water slowly. This does not need to be a running trickle.

The agency has heard concerns about the cost of dripping water. It noted that a moderate drop — equaling one drip every two seconds — is equal to less than a gallon per day. Using the rate of $3.67 per 1,000 gallons, that is equal to .3 cents, or three-tenths of a cent, the agency notes.

What to do if your pipes are frozen

If a faucet has only a trickle of water coming out, or no water at all, and it has been very cold for a period of time, a pipe or meter may be frozen. The CFPUA suggests taking the following steps:

Identify whether the problem is throughout the house or in one area. If the problem is isolated, the pipe may be able to be thawed by opening the cabinets and allowing warmer air to circulate around the pipes.  You can also use towels soaked in warm water to wrap around the frozen pipes.

Residents are reminded to never thaw a pipe with an open flame. If necessary, use a hair dryer on low or a portable heater. Avoid using electrical appliances if there is standing water.

If the lack of water persists, residents are advised to contact a licensed plumber.

The Wilmington Fire Department has also issued a warning about using portable heaters too close to flammable materials and for too long of a period. Keep heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn and unplug the heater when it is not in use.


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