Protect water pipes from freezing

Friday, December 29, 2017 10:33:00 AM

With subfreezing temperatures in the forecast, OWASA encourages customers to take steps to protect their water pipes and prevent water damage from frozen and burst pipes. 

If a water pipe breaks due to freezing, water loss and significant property damage can result.

Below is information about how to protect water pipes from freezing.

Seal Unheated Areas

Pipes in unheated areas of a building, such as the crawlspace or basement, have the greatest chance of freezing. Therefore, it is important to seal openings and air leaks in the crawlspace or basement, including access doors, air vents in the foundation and cracks.

  • You can use insulation, cardboard, plastic or newspaper to close and seal cracks and other openings – just keep the cold air out as much as possible.
  • Your foundation air vents may have hinged covers so the vents can easily be closed. However, if the basement or crawlspace has a furnace that uses natural gas or heating oil, and/or a water heater that uses natural gas, please maintain an adequate supply of air. You may wish to check with the company that installed and/or maintains the heater or furnace about maintaining adequate air supply.

Insulate Exposed Pipes

If you have water pipes or hoses in an unheated area (such as a crawlspace, attic, basement or utility room/shed), insulating the pipes is prudent, especially if they are cold water pipes. For example, pipes that hold water for a sprinkler fire protection system may need to be insulated if they are in an unheated attic.

  • Pipes in an unheated area can be protected by wrapping them with electrical heating tape (available at supply stores). However, heating tape should not be installed on pipes that are insulated.
  • If you have pipes inside or close to an exterior wall (such as pipes that supply water to a sink), you can help keep the pipes warm by opening the door of the cabinet under the sink.

Drain Unused Pipes

  • Remove and drain hoses from outdoor spigots. If there is a shut-off valve specifically for an outdoor spigot, turn the valve to the off position, open the spigot and drain any water remaining in the spigot and pipe downstream of the shut-off valve.
  • If you have water pipes in an unheated area such as a shed or garage and there is a shut-off valve for those pipes, turn off the valve and drain the water from the pipes by opening the faucet/spigot.
  • If you have difficulty protecting pipes from freezing, you can let one or more cold water faucets drip slowly to keep water moving and reduce the potential for freezing. A slow drip from a faucet is better than major water loss and property damage from frozen (burst) pipes.

Be Prepared

Identify and mark the location of the shut-off valve in your plumbing system so you can quickly turn off the water in case of an emergency. Make sure other people in your home or business know where the valve is located and how to operate it in case there is an emergency.

  • If you do not have a shut-off valve in your plumbing system and you need to shut off the water for a repair, please contact OWASA at 919-968-4421 (24 hour number). OWASA will turn off the water at no charge once a year and we have employees on call at all times to respond to service emergencies, water main breaks, etc.
  • If you do not have a shut-off valve, OWASA recommends contacting a plumber(s) in the near future to get costs and other information about having one installed.
  • Check that the cover on the OWASA water meter serving your home or business is closed to help protect water in the meter from freezing. If the cover is missing, please contact us at 919-968-4421 or (E-mails are received during normal business hours of 8 AM to 5 PM on weekdays other than holidays; please call us if there is an immediate need to replace a missing cover.) 

For more information:

919-968-4421 or

OWASA webpage: or, at, click on Conservation and Education and then click on Your Plumbing System

Red Cross:

400 Jones Ferry Road, Carrboro, NC 27510; 919-968-4421;;; Twitter: owasa1