The deep freeze has settled in and there is no real end in sight. Temperatures are forecast to rise a little after the weekend, but will remain well below zero. Combined with a light snowfall thus far, this is a recipe for problems with freezing water and sewer lines.
City Manager of Operations, Mike Fox, says that there haven’t been a lot of calls about frozen lines yet, but they are coming as the frost moves deeper into the ground.
“The frost is getting down there because of the lack of snow,” he said. “A couple of years ago we had a similar cold snap and got over 200 calls.”
If you were one of those people who had freezing lines in 2013, or any other time, you should be taking precautions now to prevent your lines freezing. You should also take precaution if you have noticed reduced water flow in your home during the winter.
“If you notice your water running slower and then increasing volume when you run it, that’s a sign your pipes are close to freezing,” Fox said.
In any of these cases, or if you are going away, it is advisable to leave a small amount of water running.
“Leave about a width of a pencil running,” he said.
You will need to keep this water running 24-7 until mid-April. This will help your water service lines from freezing. Another option is to have a plumber install a bleeder or flow reducer. The City has several bleeders available for free. Drop by the City Hall Operations Desk to pick one up.
Fox also advises that it is best to bleed a line closest to the water input to your home.
But the problem with running water all the time is that your sewer line could freeze. Every once in a while run hot water down the drain, Fox says.
The daily shower, tub or doing dishes would take care of this.
“The sewer did freeze in a city building over the weekend and running hot water for about a half hour took care of it,” he said.
If you notice the water in your sink or bathtub training slower than usual, run hot water down your drain to see if drain flow improves. If it does, continue to run hot water down your drain several time a day until the weather changes and the cold snap has passed. If hot water does not improve the flow, contact a plumber.
There are options if your lines do freeze but none of them come without a cost.
“You can call a plumber to steam your sewer lines,” Fox said. “Some plumbers, but not all, will have the technology to thaw water lines as well. The city will do it, but there is a cost and in 2013, we had so many calls that it took a couple of weeks to get to everybody.”
The City has been insulating as they replace water lines but that doesn’t help the lines on private property. Newer homes are required to have the lines buried deep enough so it’s mainly older homes that are at risk.
When snow does fall, Fox says that throwing snow from sidewalks and driveways onto your yard instead of the street will help provide additional insulation for your water lines.