Cold weather conditions can cause havoc for water systems. Here in Beatrice, most of the water meters are located in meter pits in the right of way. However, if the water meter is still inside, it is the customer’s responsibility to keep it from freezing.
Most of the freeze up calls we get can be prevented by the customer. Many freeze ups are caused by cold air entering the crawl space or basements, either through cracks or settlement in the walls. A water line that is running close to this cold air coming in can freeze the pipe if water is not used often. The room may be warm, but if the pipe is very close to cold air entering, it will still freeze the pipe.
Another factor is if the water pipe is in an exterior wall and there is not adequate insulation to protect it from freezing. If you have sinks on these outside walls, it is a good idea to leave the cabinet or cupboard doors open to allow warm air to enter this area. This is especially necessary with older homes, as they may not be insulated to today’s standards. And believe it or not, hot water will generally freeze sooner than cold water.
But if you have no water during the winter months, it is best to check all faucets first before you call the city because if the freeze-up is not at the meter pit or on the city’s responsibility, all after hours calls will be charged a service fee. By checking to see if all faucets do not have water, you can maybe eliminate calling when the problem is internal.
And yes, if it gets cold enough, we can have water meters freeze in the meter pits. If this happens, the utility assumes responsibility for this problem. We can generally thaw out the water meter with an exhaust hose attached to the truck. This usually thaws it out in a few minutes and normally causes no damage to the meter or connections.
In past years, we have had several feet of frost and actually had to use our thaw machine to thaw out the metal water services. This has not been needed for the last 20 years or so, as the winter weather has not given us several continuous weeks of sub-zero weather. This unit will not work on plastic, so we have to make sure we have more than adequate depth with the use of this material. Is this climate change? I do not know, but it is a blessing for the water department that the cold weather is not for extended durations.
Last but not least: be very careful if you are trying to thaw out your water service lines in your home. The use of a non-flammable unit such as a hair dryer is highly recommended to avoid starting a fire. I would recommend that you call a plumber to do this work unless you are experienced at it. A few dollars spent could avoid a real problem later. And lastly, if you have had problems with freezing water pipes in the past, it is best to leave a trickle of water run to avoid the freezing of the water pipes. Remember, you need to trickle the hot water also. Water is not cheap but running the water is cheaper than a service call and you will still have the most precious resource we need for life – water.