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Frozen Water Lines

This winter’s prolonged stretches of cold temperatures have resulted in some homeowners dealing with a new problem—frozen water service pipes to their homes. Water service pipes are buried 6 feet deep. In some areas, frost has penetrated the ground to about the same depth as these water service pipes.

Every year people hear they should run the water in their home continuously in order to prevent water service pipes from freezing.  MCWC wants you to know that most water service pipes serving homes are not going to freeze, however predicting which services will and won’t freeze is difficult, so you should make your own choice about what’s best for you. If you are concerned about your water line freezing check the cold water temperature from a faucet in the lowest point in your home. If it is near 32° F you may want to consider running water continuously.

If you choose to run your water continuously for your own peace of mind, please keep in mind that it will cost an approximate additional $35 a month on your water bill for the estimated 11,000 gallons of water, and you are responsible for paying for the extra water use.

Here’s what to do if you are concerned about water line pipes freezing:

  • Run your cold water continuously at a rate of one gallon every four minutes – about the stream width of a pencil. The cold water should be run from the lowest point in your home, usually a laundry room sink or tub. Do not run hot water.
  • If your pipes have already frozen and been thawed, it’s essential to keep water running continuously. Turning the water off, even for a few minutes, could cause the once-frozen line to refreeze. Pipes that have frozen once are likely to refreeze if water is not run continuously.
  • Once the outside temperatures rise above freezing, don’t stop running your water. It will take frost much longer to leave the ground than just a few days of above-freezing temperatures.

While it’s important to balance the small risk of frozen water pipes against the increased cost of continuous water use and wasted water it’s also true that the cost of extra water use is most likely far smaller than the cost of repairing a frozen water line.