Cold Weather Preparedness

Current weather conditions pose a threat to water pipes and meters that are not protected.  The Department of Public Utilities urges residents to take steps to prevent water pipes and meters from freezing in order to continue to enjoy water service as well as avoiding unnecessary and expensive repairs.  The cost of keeping a thin stream of water, the size of a pencil lead, running over night or during the day is just a little more than a quarter.

Preventing pipes and meters from freezing is much easier than trying to thaw them. DPU offers these money saving suggestions:

Provide warmth to the water pipes:

  • Eliminate cold drafts near water pipes.
  • Tightly close doors and windows to the outside and eliminate drafts from crawl spaces.
  • Fill cracks in walls and around windows.
  • Turn off water to garden hose connections at an inside valve and drain the exposed piping before freezing temperatures set in.
  • Open the door to the room where the pipes are located to allow warmth to circulate.
  • Place a lighted bulb near water pipes. (Never use open flames.)
  • Wrap pipes in insulation or heat tape.
  • Open cabinet door below the sink to allow warm air to reach the pipes.

Make frequent use of your water supply:

  • Flowing water often breaks up ice below freezing.
  • When outside temperatures remain below freezing, it's less expensive to run your faucet regularly than for you to repair a frozen or burst pipe.

What to do if pipes freeze?

If no water comes from faucets when they are open, the pipes nearest a wall, door, window, or along the floor are likely frozen:

  • Start by opening a faucet near the frozen pipe to release any vapor from the melting ice and so that you'll know when the water starts flowing again.
  • Begin warming the pipes nearest the faucet and work toward the frozen section.
  • Blow warm air on the pipe using a hair dryer. (Do not leave the dryer unattended or allow it to overheat.)
  • Once water has begun to flow again, let a pencil-sized stream of water flow through the faucet until normal heating is restored to the area.
  • Eliminate cold drafts and allow warm air to circulate around the pipes to prevent freezing again.

Meters need protection too!

It is colder near the floor of a basement than at the ceiling, so make sure warm air is allowed to circulate around your meter. Follow the previous instructions about preventing frozen water pipes.  If your meter is in a separate room, leave the door open to this room to allow warmth to circulate. If your meter is in a cabinet, open the cabinet door.  If the meter is in an outdoor pit, check to see that the cover fits properly and that it has no cracks into which cold wind can blow. The pipes, valves and the meter inside such pits should not touch the concrete walls.

Customers who suspect damage to water pipes or the water meter should contact Customer Service on business days from 7 am 6 pm at 419-245-1800.  Water Emergencies should be reported to 419-936-2020 immediately.  Water turn-off service for repairs is provided at no charge and is available from 7 am until 11 pm seven days a week at the Water Emergency number. 

Using Heaters

Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths. Half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February. Some simple steps can prevent most heating-related fires from happening.

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly.

Health Concerns

When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and won’t be able to do anything about it.

Hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40°F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water.

Warnings signs of hypothermia:

Adults:

  • shivering, exhaustion
  • confusion, fumbling hands
  • memory loss, slurred speech
  • drowsiness

Infants:

  • bright red, cold skin
  • very low energy

If you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95°, the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately.

If medical care is not available, begin warming the person, as follows:

  • Get the victim into a warm room or shelter.
  • If the victim has on any wet clothing, remove it.
  • Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, head, and groin—using an electric blanket, if available. Or use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets.
  • Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature, but do not give alcoholic beverages. Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.
  • After body temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck.

Posted by Stacy Weber on Monday, February 23, 2015.