Here are some tips for avoiding costly damage

Before cold weather hits:

  • Know the location of your water shut-off switch and test it regularly.
  • If you haven’t already, turn off and drain automatic and manual sprinkler systems. The alternate freezing and thawing of water in the system can create cracks and weak spots, triggering silent underground leaks or minigeysers.
  • Turn off outdoor faucets and disconnect hoses from them. You’ll thank yourself in the spring.
  • Winterize unheated or vacant buildings.
  • Insulate water pipes that may be vulnerable to the cold or have caused problems before.

During a deep freeze (-5 degrees and below):

  • Open cabinet doors leading to exposed pipes (such as access doors for sinks), so that household air can warm them.
  • If you have an attached garage, keep its doors shut.
  • Crack a faucet farthest from the place where your water enters the house. A very slow drip will keep water molecules moving, reducing the chance that pipes will freeze. Place a bucket underneath the faucet so the water can be saved for other household uses.
  • Keep your thermostat set above 65 degrees when leaving your house or business for several days.

If you think a pipe has already frozen:

  • Don’t wait for nature to take its course:Thaw the pipe as soon as possible or call a plumber for help.
  • If you do it yourself, shut off the water or test the shut-off valve: You don’t want water suddenly gushing from the pipe when it thaws.
  • When thawing things, slower is better: Pipes warmed too fast may break. A hair dryer trained at the frozen area of the pipe is appropriate. A blow torch is not.