Utilities Kingston shares tips to protect plumbing during extreme cold

Utilities Kingston. Photo by Lucas Mulder/Kingstonist.

Later this week, the forecast calls for extreme cold, potentially reaching -29 degrees Celcius. As a result, Utilities Kingston has shared the following information to help property owners prevent potential problems with plumbing pipes in exterior walls.

In a media release, Utilities Kingston said that exposed plumbing pipes in exterior walls of homes, unheated basements, and crawlspaces could be at risk of freezing.

“Knowing what steps to take to protect your pipes from freezing can help you prevent the inconvenience and expense of plumbing problems,” said Heather Roberts, Director of Water and Wastewater Operations. “When in doubt about the integrity of your internal plumbing pipes, consider calling a plumber as the problem could worsen.”

Internal plumbing pipes are the responsibility of the property owner, Utilities Kingston stated, before offering these tips to protect your plumbing:

Check exposed cold-water pipes inside your home

To check your plumbing, touch exposed cold-water pipes. For example, in your basement or the incoming water pipes under the kitchen sink. If a spot feels unusually cold (or colder than other spots) take measures to provide heat.

Measures you can take include insulating pipes and external walls or opening cupboard doors to improve warm air flow. If you have a frozen internal plumbing pipe, try using a hair dryer to thaw it. (Safety first: never leave a heating device unattended and be careful not to weaken plumbing joints.)

Consider calling a plumber, as the problem can get worse.

Tips to prevent internal plumbing from freezing

Consider these tips to prevent problems with frozen internal plumbing:

  • Locate your master shut-off valve at the water meter. Ensure it is accessible and operating. This way you’ll know how to quickly turn off the water if a pipe bursts.
  • Unscrew outdoor garden hoses, turn off the outdoor water supply, and allow the taps to drain (ideally you would do this before the first frost).
  • Make sure that boxes and other items aren’t blocking heat from getting to your water meter or exposed plumbing against exterior walls.
  • Insulate pipes or faucets in unheated areas, especially near outside walls and in crawl spaces, the attic and garage. This can be done with foam pipe covers available from building supply or home improvement stores. Avoid direct pipe contact with exterior walls.
  • Seal cracks that let air in, which could potentially blow on exposed pipes. Check around windows and doors, electrical wiring, dryer vents and pipes. Ensure doors and windows are fully closed. Focus your attention on areas where your water lines run along outside walls or come up through floors, or in unheated basements and crawl spaces.
  • Consider installing frost-free outdoor faucets.
  • If you’re going to be away from your property for extended periods, turn off the master shut-off valve and drain the pipes, including external taps. Consider other systems in your building, including water heaters and water softeners, as they may be affected when your water is off.
  • When in doubt about internal plumbing issues, consult with a licensed plumber.

Know what to do in case of long-duration cold snaps 

Although the temperatures are only forecast to be extreme for a short period of time, you should know what to do in case of long-duration cold snaps.
Understanding the risks and preventative steps for frozen outside water service lines can help avoid future problems in case of extreme and long-duration cold spells.

Learn more at the links below:

With the cold weather upon us, Kingstonist has compiled an article with lists of warm-up locations that can be used throughout the day, as well as warming centres, emergency shelters, and other shelter options. All of that information, sourced from the City of Kingston and KFL&A Public Health, can be read here.

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