Winter: Freezing Pipes & Plumbing
Water freezing in your cold and hot water pipes can cause serious problems. While this freezing takes place, the pipe begins to swell and may burst. In most cases, the actual break doesn't appear until the water begins to thaw.
A little bit of planning can make for a dryer, happier winter. Fairfax Water encourages residents to take the following preventative actions to protect home plumbing:
Locate and mark the main water cutoff valve for your home.
This cutoff valve is usually found near where the waterline comes
into your house. Damage from running water can be minimized if you
can turn off this valve quickly.
Make sure the waterline to outside faucets is turned off and the
line is drained. Consider wrapping or insulating your water
pipes, especially those pipes near outside walls, under the house
or in the attic. Insulation supplies are available at local home
improvement or hardware stores.
Eliminate drafts. Check around the home for areas where
water supply lines are located in unheated areas and take measures
to prevent the flow of cold air in these areas. Look in the
basement, crawl space, attic, garage and under kitchen and bathroom
cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be
insulated. A hot water supply line can freeze just as a cold water
supply line can if water is not running through the pipe and the
water temperature becomes cold.
If a water pipe freezes, never try to thaw it with an open flame
or torch. You can use a hair dryer or portable heater, but
always be careful of the potential for electric shock in and around
If you will be away from your home, keep the thermostat at a
reasonable temperature to make sure all areas with water pipes
are kept above freezing.
If you suspect you have a frozen water meter, call Fairfax Water for help.
Service crews are available 24 hours a day and will respond as soon
- Business hours: 703-698-5800, TTY 711.
After hours: 703-698-5613, TTY 711.
If you are vacating your home because you have lost your heat
source, locate and turn off your main water cutoff valve.
- After the valve is turned off, open a faucet on each level of your home to allow for expansion should the undrained water freeze.
If you are staying in your home or will be monitoring your home
frequently, allow a faucet to drip cold water slowly. At a minimum,
the dripping faucet should be the one that is the greatest distance
from your main water cutoff valve.
- Consider allowing a slow drip in areas that are least protected from the cold (basements, crawl spaces, attics and garages).
If the pipe breaks, quickly shut off the water valve, if you haven't already done so. Then call a plumber. They have the know-how to correctly fix the break.
Should you call the fire department? Only if the water gets
in or near electrical outlets or panels, or if the water threatens a
pilot light or power to a water heater or furnace.