Water company warns of what can happen to pipes during cold snap

(Undated) -- A local utility is reminding homeowners of steps to take to make sure your pipes don't freeze during the upcoming Polar Vortex.

When temperatures dip below freezing for several days, Iowa American Water Company says it sees an increase in calls from customers with frozen pipes. Frozen pipes can leave you without water, or worse, they can burst and cause damage to your home.

Here are some things you can do before the bitter cold moves in:

  • Check sprinklers or irrigation systems. Make sure you’ve turned everything off and fully drained the system.
  • Protect your pipes. Identify pipes in areas that might be prone to freezing, such as crawl spaces, unheated rooms, basements, garages, and exterior walls. Where pipes are exposed to cold, wrap them with insulation or heat tape (even fabric or newspaper can help).
  • Know how to shut off your water. Make sure everyone in your household knows the location of your main water shut-off valve. Hang a tag on the valve so you can find it quickly in an emergency.
  • Give pipes a helping hand. If pipes run through cabinets or vanities, open the doors to let warmer room temperatures flow in.
  • Keep water working. Keep water moving through the pipes by allowing a small trickle of water to run. The cost of the extra water is typically lower than the cost of repairing a broken pipe or meter.
  • Shut off the water immediately. Don’t attempt to thaw pipes without turning off the main shut-off valve.
  • Thaw pipes with warm air. Melt the frozen water in the pipe by warming the air around it. Be sure not to leave space heaters unattended and avoid the use of kerosene heaters or open flames.
  • Be careful turning the water back on. Once pipes are thawed, slowly turn the water back on and check pipes and joints for any cracks or leaks that might have been caused by freezing.

If you lose water in your home, check with a neighbor to see if they’re experiencing the same issue before you contact Iowa American Water Co..

  • If your neighbor has running water: It’s likely that your pipes are frozen, and you should follow the steps above.
  • If your neighbor doesn’t have water: There may be a water main break affecting your neighborhood. Check the Alerts page on Iowa American Water Company's website to see current alerts about water main repairs and other emergency work in your area.

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