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With the mercury forecasted to dip into subzero territory in the coming days, the City of Pocatello Water Department is reminding residents of the ways that they can prevent lines in their homes and on their property from freezing up.
“The first step in the process is understanding where your water lines are located within your residence,” said Water Department Superintendent Justin Armstrong. “The ones that are most susceptible to the cold are the ones located in unheated basements, crawlspaces, attics, garages, and within cabinets on an exterior wall.”
To help prevent pipes from freezing, Armstrong shares the following tips:
• Close all doors and windows to the outside of your home.
• Cover vents in crawl spaces to prevent the circulation of cold air.
• Repair broken windows, fill cracks in walls, and make any other repairs to prevent cold air from reaching exposed pipes.
• Maintain temperatures of at least 40 degrees in areas where water lines are exposed, or if impractical, consider insulating exposed water pipes or install UL-listed heat tape.
• Run water periodically throughout the day when outside temperatures remain below freezing. This will help prevent the pipes from freezing and it’s less expensive to run your faucet regularly than to repair a frozen or burst pipe.
• Open cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Make sure harmful chemicals are moved out of the reach of children.
• Set the thermostat no lower than 55 degrees if the home will be unattended for more than 24 hours. Also, ask a friend or neighbor to check on your residence and run the water for several minutes daily.
• Cover your meter box with snow to help insulate the meter. Do not access the inside of a meter box.
If you think a line may have frozen in your home, Armstrong says to check other fixtures in home and see if water is flowing. If you have water at other fixtures, he says you can then proceed to do the following before calling the Water Department for assistance:
1. Open a faucet near the frozen pipe to release entrapped ice and also so you know when the water starts flowing again.
2. Begin warming pipes nearest to the faucet and work toward the frozen section by blowing warm air on the pipe by using a small unit heater or blow dryer. Do not leave unattended to prevent a fire hazard. Blow torches or open flames should also not be used to avoid explosions.
3. Once water has begun to flow, let a pencil-sized stream of water flow until normal heating conditions are restored.
If you check the other fixtures and water is not flowing, it’s likely the water line has frozen. Armstrong says that is when you need to call the Water Department.
“It is illegal for residents to tamper or access their meter box and try to thaw it out on their own,” Armstrong explains. “When the lid to the meter box is opened, cold air is introduced. Water Department employees have the proper training and tools to thaw a frozen meter or line without causing additional damage to equipment or adjacent properties.”
If you need help with a frozen water line, contact the Water Department by calling 234-6182 during business hours and at 234-6181 after hours. Staff are available for assistance from 7:00 a.m. until midnight, Monday through Friday, and 8:00 a.m. until midnight, Saturday, Sunday and holidays. This service will be provided free of charge to customers once each winter. However, any additional thawing efforts will be charged to the owner or occupant’s utility bill as provided for by Municipal Ordinance 13.04.190.
For a full list of tips to prevent frozen pipes, visit pocatello.us/water.