Frozen water pipe with icicles.

Prevent frozen water pipes, meters and sewers

Your water lines may be at risk of freezing during prolonged periods of bitter cold. This is especially true if you have had issues with frozen water lines in the past.

How to prepare your pipes for severe cold

Take action when weather reports warn about extended periods of severe cold.

  • Allow warm air to circulate in the area where the water comes in to the house.
  • Leave utility room doors open and clear space around the water line to help prevent cold pockets of air near the pipes.
  • Remove contents of vanity cupboards that conceal pipes, and leave the doors open.
  • If possible, leave snow cover over the area where your water line runs laterally from the curb stop to the house.
  • Put a fresh battery in your home's thermostat, if it is not hard-wired to the home.
  • Run the cold water faucet closest to your water service's entry point for a few minutes and then take the temperature of the water. If the water is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it is recommended that you let your cold water run from this faucet at a pencil thickness.
  • You should run a pencil-thick stream of water nonstop when there is no one home, overnight when temperatures typically dip lower, or no water will be used for a period of time. Notify the City's Utilities Division (952-563-8777) if you choose this method to protect your pipes.

Dealing with frozen pipes or water meters

Find where water service enters the home. Basement rim joists or exterior walls not not have have insulation or adequate exposure to heat.

Water meters may be located in former well pits or utility rooms that are isolated from the warmth of finished living spaces. This allows them to freeze.

  • Direct warm air toward the unheated area, water line, pipe or water meter using:
    • Heat tape
    • A space heater (don’t leave it unattended!)
    • A hair dryer
    • A fan blowing warm air to warm the pipe.
  • If the water meter is in a closet or isolated space, keep the door open to allow warmer air into the room.
  • Follow all safety precautions recommended by Consumer Product Safety Commission and Underwriters Laboratory.
  • Fill cracks or open spaces with insulation.
  • Watch for unintended consequences of sewer or septic backups if you are running water continuously.

If you need the help of a contractor to thaw a frozen water line:

  • Be aware of unintended consequences of contractors thawing water lines, particularly if they are using an electrical welder. These consequences could include fire, explosion, damage to appliances and electronics, and damage to other nearby properties in the case of stray electrical current.
  • Determine whether the contractor is using a commercial device manufactured specifically to thaw frozen water lines.
  • Determine whether the contractor is insured before they begin work.

Sanitary sewer freeze-up considerations

Make sure the roof vent is not covered with snow or otherwise blocked. Snow buildup over the vent will cause the sewer drain to slow down. This prevents warmer air in the sewer system from venting up the house line and keeping the line above freezing.

Frozen water service FAQ

Should I run my water continuously to keep the pipes from freezing?

It depends. Most water service lines (pipes) going into the home are not going to freeze.

During the winter of 2013 – 2014, during which the City of Bloomington experienced its historic maximum of frozen water service connections, about 214 pipes froze out of 25,300 accounts. This represents less than one percent of all homes in our service area.

In general, the City of Bloomington recommends you only run your water if you have knowledge of or have experienced freezing incidents on your property in the past, or if you have been contacted by the City of Bloomington about running your water.

That said, it's difficult to predict which water services will and won’t freeze.

If there is a chance of our water lines freezing, why not just tell everyone to run their water?

The average chance of a property's water line freezing is less than one percent.

As good stewards of our resources, we want to encourage everyone to conserve our precious water resources.

And we want to keep water costs low for our customers, most of whom will not be affected by a frozen water line this winter. Running water continuously can cost customers an additional $100 or so per month, to prevent an event that is unlikely to occur at most properties.

How do I know if I should run my water to prevent my pipes form freezing?

You should run your water if you have been contacted by the City of Bloomington, or if your pipes have already frozen once this season.

If pipes freeze on private property, all costs associated with thawing pipes and keeping them from re-freezing are the responsibility of property owners. You can always choose to run your water for your own peace of mind. However, you will be charged for the water and sewer used if you choose to run water on your own.

If you choose to run your water continuously, run it at a rate of one gallon every four minutes—about the stream width of a pencil.

Keep your drain clear of debris to prevent overflow or flooding.

If I have a frozen water pipe and do not have water, whom should I call?

Contact the City of Bloomington Utilities Division at 952-563-8777, or our 24-hour emergency line at 952-563-4905.