Your water lines may be at risk of freezing during prolonged periods of bitter cold. This is especially true if you have had issues with frozen water lines in the past, particularly in homes with poor insulation in the walls.
How to prepare your pipes for severe cold
Take action when weather reports warn about extended periods of severe cold:
Allow warm air to circulate in the area where the water comes into the house.
Leave utility room doors open and clear space around the water line to help prevent cold pockets of air near the pipes.
Remove contents of vanity cupboards that conceal pipes and leave the doors open.
If possible, leave snow cover over the area where your water line runs laterally from the curb stop to the house.
Put a fresh battery in your home's thermostat, if it is not hard-wired to the home.
Run the cold water faucet closest to your water service's entry point for a few minutes and then take the temperature of the water. If the water is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it is recommended that you let your cold water run from this faucet. The water stream should be the size of a pen tip (just beyond a drip).
You should run a stream of water the size of a pen tip (just beyond a drip) nonstop when there is no one home, overnight when temperatures typically dip lower, or no water will be used for a period of time.
Dealing with frozen pipes or water meters
Find where the water service enters the home. Many services can freeze when they are located in basement ceilings or exterior walls that do not have insulation or adequate exposure to heat.
Water meters may be located in former well pits or utility rooms that are isolated from the warmth of finished living spaces. This allows them to freeze.
Direct warm air toward the unheated area, water line, pipe or water meter using:
A space heater (don’t leave it unattended!)
A hair dryer
A fan blowing warm air to warm the pipe
If the water meter is in a closet or isolated space, keep the door open to allow warmer air into the room.
Follow all safety precautions as recommended by the manufacturer.
Fill cracks or open spaces with insulation.
Watch for unintended consequences of sewer if you are running water continuously.
If you need the help of a contractor to thaw a frozen water line
Be aware of unintended consequences of contractors thawing water lines, particularly if they are using an electrical welder. These consequences could include fire, explosion, damage to appliances and electronics, and damage to other nearby properties in the case of stray electrical current.
Determine whether the contractor is using a commercial device manufactured specifically to thaw frozen water lines.
Determine whether the contractor is insured before they begin work.