How to Protect Your Pipes (and Save Money) This Winter

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

With winter in full swing, it’s important to protect your water pipes from freezing and save yourself the high cost of repairs due to burst pipes. Virginia Beach Public Utilities is urging residents to do the following:

  • Insulate exposed pipes and replace wet insulation.
  • Locate and wrap faucets and pipes in unheated areas such as the garage, the attic, below your deck, and in crawl spaces.
  • Eliminate drafts. Plug cracks and fix broken windows. Seal or close air vents, windows, and doors near your pipes.
  • Turn off the water to outside faucets, remove hoses and drain the pipes.
  • Check your meter box cover. Make sure it’s not broken, displaced, or missing. Keep it closed.

If Freezing Temperatures are Predicted:

  • Let a steady drip of water run from the highest faucet in your house. Using cold water will save money on your gas or electric bill.
  • Leave cabinet doors open so room heat can reach the pipes.
  • Locate your private water shut-off valve so you can turn your water off if your pipes burst.
  • Don't set your thermostat below 55 degrees. If you leave your home for an extended amount of time, enlist a friend or neighbor to check on your home daily.

If Your Pipes Freeze:

  • Turn your water off at the private water shut-off valve (see below). When your pipes thaw, they may break.
  • Never try to thaw frozen pipes with an open flame or any electrical appliance. It’s dangerous and could damage your pipes.
  • Be prepared for possible leaks as the pipes thaw. 

Find Your Shut-Off Valve:

The water shut-off valve usually resembles the handle of an outside faucet. Turn the handle clockwise to turn off the water. The location of the shut-off valve varies, but all buildings less than 25 years old have one. Likely locations for the private water shut-off valve include:

  • Close to an outside hose bib, where the water supply pipe enters your home. The valve will be located inside a box or pipe in the ground, several feet from the exterior of your home.
  • Near your water heater, or under a vanity cabinet or kitchen sink, particularly if you live in a townhouse, condominium, or apartment.
  • On the wall in your garage, particularly in newer homes.
  • If your pipes have burst and you can't find your shut-off valve, call (757) 385-4631 (311 or 385-3111 nights, weekends and holidays).  A Public Utilities member will be dispatched to turn off your water service at the meter.

A little preparation can save you money and help conserve our most precious resource. For more information, contact Tiffany Wright with Virginia Beach Public Utilities at (757) 385-4948.