Freeze warning: Protect your pipes as temperatures dip

With temperatures nearing freezing outside, both internal and external water lines could be vulnerable to damage. (Port City Daily photo/ Johanna Ferebee)
With temperatures nearing freezing outside, both internal and external water lines could be vulnerable to damage. (Port City Daily photo/File)

SOUTHEASTERN, N.C. — It’s that time of year again. There are several precautions to take to protect pipes from freezing, plus steps to take if your pipes do freeze over.

Temperatures are expected to dip below freezing for several hours Saturday evening.

When temperatures dip below freezing, water pipes become vulnerable to freezing water. Water expands when frozen, leading to broken pipes that leave behind significant and costly damage.


Cape Fear Public Utility Authority warned customers of a incoming freeze late Saturday afternoon.

Before pipes freeze

Here’s what to do before the freeze in order to protect interior and exterior pipes:

  • Insulate any and all exposed water lines or pipes in unheated areas
  • Exposed irrigation systems should be removed or insulated
  • Exposed water lines, like an outside shower, and any other lines that lead to outside faucets should be isolated and drained.
  • Close inside valves and drain pipes leading to outside faucets
  • Pour a small amount of RV or marine — not standard automotive — antifreeze into drains and toilets that may be subject to freezing.
  • To avoid iced-over sidewalks, turn off irrigation systems
  • To allow warm air to circulate near interior pipes, open cabinets near faucets
  • Allow one faucet — the one farthest from the main water shut off valve — to slowly drip cold water.
  • Close doors and windows tightly

Pipes are frozen. Now what?

When a faucet has been exposed to cold temperatures and only produces a trickle of water, it could likely be frozen. If water lines do freeze, there are several steps to take to mitigate potential damage.

Cape Fear Public Utility Authority provided several tips last year on what to do when a pipe freezes:

  • Do not apply excessive heat to frozen pipes
  • Open cabinets to allow warm air to circulate near frozen pipes
  • Use towels soaked in warm water to wrap around frozen pipes
  • Use a hair dryer set on a low setting
  • If using an electric heater or heat tape, devices at risk of coming into contact with water should be powered through a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter
  • If problems persist, contact a licensed plumber.

Though it’s tempting to do so, the Wilmington Fire Department also warned last year for people to avoid using portable heaters for an extended period of time. Use of portable heaters should be limited and unplugged when not in use. Keep heaters at least three feet away from any flammable materials.

For more tips on fire safety this winter, visit Wilmington Fire Department’s website.


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