Pennsylvania American Water releases statement regarding frozen pipes

It’s not the ice planet of Hoth.

It’s just really cold in Pennsylvania. Wind chill advisories are in effect through Saturday night. There is the potential for dangerously cold wind chills of 20 to 30 degrees below zero, and four to eight inches of snow are expected on top of the arctic chill, according to the National Weather Service.

That combination of factors presents the threat of frostbite within as few as ten minutes to skin exposed to the air, as well as potential road hazards. But many people may not think of the hazards such extreme cold can pose to their homes.

Pennsylvania American Water Vice President of Operations Jimmy Sheridan released a statement on Wednesday regarding frozen pipes. The extreme cold “means customers should take immediate steps to protect vulnerable areas of their homes to avoid frozen pipes that can burst and result in costly damage,” said Sheridan.

All in-home piping as well as water service lines between the curb and a residence are the maintenance responsibility of homeowners, Sheridan said. He encouraged homeowners to take precautions against damage to pipes and water lines during the prolonged cold temperatures.

Preventive actions can include becoming aware of areas in your home susceptible to freezing, such as basements, crawl spaces, unheated rooms, and outside walls. Eliminating drafts and other sources of cold air near water pipes through insulation, closing off unheated areas, and maintaining windows is advisable.

Knowing where the main water shutoff in your home is and turning it off in the event that a pipe does burst is essential, said Sheridan. Also, exposed pipes and meters can be wrapped in insulation, electrical heat tracing wire, or even newspaper or fabric if no other material is available. Sheridan said that leaving snow on covered meters and pipes, as it acts as insulation itself.

While the temperature remains extremely low, Sheridan advised leaving a trickle of water running overnight to prevent pipes from freezing. “The cost of the extra water is low compared to the cost to repair a broken pipe,” he said.

Opening cabinet doors to warmer room air can also help keep pipes from freezing, he said.

In the event that pipes freeze, Sheridan advised turning off water immediately, and not attempting to thaw frozen pipes unless the water has been shut off, as freezing can often cause unseen cracks in pipes or joints. Use a hair dryer or space heater to apply heat to a pipe and be sure not to leave space heaters unattended. Do not use kerosene or open-flame heating to thaw pipes, and once pipes have thawed, turn the water back on to check for cracks or leaks.

Aging water main breaks can cause driving hazards, Sheridan said. Anyone who sees a leak or customers whose water service is interrupted during extreme cold temperatures should contact Pennsylvania American Water’s customer service center at 1-800-565-7292.