Nassau Suffolk Water Commissioners’ Association


Brrr! 12 Winterizing Tips

It’s been a very difficult year for everyone, and now we have to await what Old Man Winter might have in store for Long Islanders.

This season can be brutally tough on homes, and depending where you live, his icy cold breath can create a lot of expensive damage. It’s basically all physics. When water freezes, it expands. Ice is anathema to water pipes regardless of their materials. The resulting expansion of water within pipes into ice produces pressure within the pipes. This can cause bursting, plumbing bills and emergency visits from your local water supplier. It’s best to try and avoid these unsolicited, unwelcome events so here are time-proven ways to minimize potential damages from Old Man Winter.

Old man winter

  1. Get an accurate overall picture of your water situation. Examine the condition of your buildings starting with the plumbing. Identify those pipes that will be most affected or are most vulnerable to freezing. They are likely the ones located outside your house. Then check all inside outside walls and windows, and look for uninsulated pipes and pipes installed near unheated spaces. It is also important to check for any cracks or openings in walls, floors and ceilings. Caulking will help to keep cold air from entering those gaps and affecting your pipes (and your heating bills!)
  2. Uh oh! Things happen! Always know the location where your shut-off valve and water pipes are located in case of emergency.
  3. Pipes in unheated areas can become problems in cold weather. Insulate all water pipes in unheated areas to prevent freezing and subsequent thawing and bursting.  Foam insulation works well. This insulation can also reduce the amount of water that must be run before hot water is discharged from faucet or showers.
  4. Disconnect and drain all outside hoses to prevent freezing.  Outdoor hoses should be stored where they will not freeze to prevent cracking.  Check your local hardware store. Replacing hoses can be expensive!
  5. Turn off all outside spigots from inside your house. Then drain the lines and leave the spigots open.
  6. Foam insulation covers are available for outside spigots.  They are inexpensive and can be extremely helpful.
  7. Check out heat tape. Heat tape is often used for pipes, as it is an effective method for winterizing plumbing.  However, be aware that additional hazards must be considered. The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission website has safety recommendations for those homeowners using heat tapes to help prevent fires.
  8. Shut down and thoroughly drain all lawn sprinkler systems.
  9. Check meter pit covers to assure that they are securely bolted down and intact.  Any problems in this area should be immediately reported to your Water District service department.
  10. To help safeguard pipes, especially in uninsulated areas, open any cabinet doors under sinks, particularly those located on outside walls. This allows the warmer room air to help prevent freezing.
  11. For your own safety, and the safety of  the public, firemen and EMTs, please keep fire hydrants free from snow and ice accumulation as well as debris. Visible hydrants can be readily accessed. Every second counts when there is a fire, for yourself, your family, your house or office, and for firefighters and EMTs.
  12. Attention snowbirds! If you are snow birding to warmer climates, or going away for a lengthy time during the winter, consider shutting off your water pump and water heater. This will protect the heating elements in the water heater when there is no water inside the tank.