Air pipes

Howard County offers advice on how to keep pipes from freezing when temperatures drop

Water pipes located in a crawl space or on an exterior wall are subject to temperatures below the freezing point, as are pipes located in a garage, attic or other unheated building. To help combat this problem and reduce the likelihood of your pipes freezing and bursting, the Bureau of Utilities recommends the following:

  • Wrap or insulate exposed pipes sensitive to low temperatures.
  • Use other devices, such as UL approved heat tape, to prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Let hot and cold water drip about the thickness of a pencil on nights when temperatures drop below 15 ° F.
  • Some pipes, such as those located in cabinets or vanities, and located against an exterior wall may be insulated but may be susceptible to freezing. It is good practice to leave cabinet / vanity doors open to allow heat into the room to keep pipes warm and prevent freezing.

The Bureau also suggests these simple steps to prevent water leakage and damage:

  • Close the indoor water valve for all outdoor garden hose connections and open the outdoor garden valve to drain the line.
  • Know where the main water shutoff valve is inside your home and verify that it works by hand. In the event of a leak, this valve will stop the flow of water entering the house and thus limit costly water damage.
  • Seal any air leaks that allow icy puffs to reach the pipes.
  • For homes with crawl spaces, close exterior vents located in the foundation wall in extremely cold weather to prevent exposed plumbing from freezing.
  • Heating costs are determined by outdoor temperatures and home thermostat settings. It is a false economy to let indoor temperatures drop below 55 degrees. This creates a risk of pipes freezing and increases energy consumption when attempting to restore the interior temperature.
  • If you are going on an extended vacation, turn off your water tap, drain the water lines from the upper levels to the lower levels. Otherwise, set your thermostat to at least 55 ° F or higher.

Additionally, to keep county fire hydrants from freezing and prevent flooding on the streets, residents are urged to shovel snow away from their neighborhood fire hydrants that are covered or obstructed by snow, as well as keeping debris and snow away from stormwater runoff drains into the roadway.

If your pipes are freezing, the office recommends opening the cold water faucet closest to the frozen pipe to relieve the pressure. Then use a gentle heat source, such as a light bulb or hair dryer, to thaw the hose. NOT use an open flame.

Residents are also reminded if you have a problem with your water service or if you experience a sewage back-up in your home, call the county first to determine if there is a break in the water line. or a blockage in the sewer line beyond your property. During regular business hours, residents are asked to call the Bureau of Utilities at 410-313-4900. After hours and on weekends, call Central Dispatch at 410-313-2929 who will then notify a county utility employee.

Residents can also keep up to date with the latest Bureau of Utilities emergencies and upcoming scheduled repairs, along with other useful information, by visiting the Bureau’s website or registering for its electronic newsletter.