Rural Blog: American Water offers tips to avoid frozen pipes as frigid temps grip much of the nation

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The nearly nationwide cold snap is expected to continue for a week or so, increasing chances that household pipes might freeze, and in some cases burst. Here are some tips from American Water, the nation’s main for-profit water company, on how to prevent and deal with frozen pipes, which usually occur in areas such as crawl spaces or along the outside walls where unprotected plumbing is more vulnerable to the elements.

Weather Channel map of wind chills Jan. 2. (Click to enlarge)

• When below-freezing temperatures occur, keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets that are supplied by pipes running through an unheated or unprotected space to keep the water from freezing. Also, keep kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open to allow warm air to reach water pipes.

• Set the thermostat no lower than 55 degrees if you’re going out of town.

• Know the location of your home’s main water shut-off valve so that you can turn off your water quickly if a pipe bursts inside your home. This valve is often located in a utility room or closet or in the basement, close to where the water supply enters the home.

• If a pipe freezes, first shut off the water to your home immediately, at the main shut-off valve.

• Thaw your pipes with warm air so that you melt the frozen water in the pipe. Do this with a space heater, for example, but avoid the use of kerosene heaters or open flames.

• Once pipes are thawed, slowly turn the water back on and check pipes and joints for any cracks or leaks that might have been caused by freezing.

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.

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