Winter Weather Tips & Safety

Winter Weather

How to Prepare Your Home Utilities for Winter Weather

With freezing temperatures around the corner, St. James Parish Utilities Dept. is offering tips to help community members protect their pipes and prevent any winter weather-related water problems.

When freezing temperatures settle in, pipes can freeze, making them more susceptible to cracking or bursting. Depending on the severity, a cracked or busted pipe can lead to low water pressure – or in a worst-case scenario, no water – along with expensive cleanup and repair bills. It can also lead to higher water usage and a higher than average water bill.

There are several ways people can protect their pipes during the cold winter months, that vary by severity. In the late fall and early winter, when the frost begins, people should:

-Disconnect and drain outdoor hoses.  (Detaching the hose allows water to drain from the pipe so an overnight freeze doesn't burst the faucet or the pipe it's connected to.)

-Insulate pipes or faucets in unheated areas, or areas that are exposed to the cold. (It's best to wrap water pipes in unheated areas (such as the garage or crawl space) before temperatures plummet. You can find pipe wrapping materials at any hardware or building supply store.)

-Seal off access doors, air vents, and cracks.

Winter winds whistling through overlooked openings can quickly freeze exposed water pipes. When temperatures drop below 50 degrees (Fahrenheit), it is best to close off openings where cold air can pass through. However, you should not plug air vents used by your furnace or water heater.

On rare occasions, our area experiences extended periods of extreme cold, there are some additional precautions that people can take to protect their pipes:

-Consider installing "heat tape" or "heat cable".

Install "heat tape" or similar materials on all exposed water pipe (i.e. exterior pipe, or pipe located where the temperature might drop below freezing). It is relatively easy to install and can be found at your local hardware or building supply store. Be sure that you use only UL-listed products and follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully.

-Find the master shutoff valve.

Usually located where the water line enters your house (or near the water heater or washing machine), the master shutoff valve turns off the water to the entire house. Paint it a bright color and make sure everyone in the household knows where it is in the event of an emergency.

-Let your faucets drip.

Letting a small drip of water run from the faucet can help prevent pipes from freezing. This precaution is most often reserved for extended cold spells with temperature staying below freezing for several days, i.e. a “deep freeze”. The common rule of thumb is when temperatures will be at 28 degrees(Fahrenheit), or below for at least 6 hours you may need to drip. We need to be mindful of this, because unnecessary dripping can lead to low water pressure in the water district.

Just like there are some common tips and tricks to protect your pipes, there are a number of mistruths that may do more harm than good. For example, covering your meter with old dog food bags, tarps, towels, hay bales or other objects is not necessary during short periods of freezing temperatures. The pipes are far enough below the surface to keep from freezing, in most cases. The best thing to do for your meter is making sure the lid is tightly secured and leave it be.

If you have specific questions, call the St. James Parish Utilities Department at 225-562-2500