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Tips to keep your pipes from freezing or bursting ahead of subzero temperatures

Dripping Water Faucet.
Letting a faucet drip can help keep water moving, and therefore keep it from freezing.

The time to prepare for cold weather is before it hits. The National Weather Service says the area will likely see single digit highs and sub-zero lows over the next couple of days. Greater Cincinnati Water Works Supervisor Jon Peters says now is the time to act to prevent pipes from freezing. He says if you have a basement, check any water lines coming in.

"Especially if the basement's unheated. If they have any exposed copper pipes or any kind of lines coming into the house, make sure they get those insulated," Peters says. "And they also want to put some insulation around the meter and any kind of fittings or any kind of assemblies that are in the house."

Peters says it's also a good idea to make sure the garden hose is disconnected from the house, and the line drained.

How to keep water flowing

Peters says if water isn't flowing out of one of your faucets, act quickly. "Open up the doors underneath the cabinet. Take a hairdryer and start heating up that area underneath the faucet. That's the most likely place it's going to freeze. It's the most common. And if you're catching it early enough, hopefully it's just a frozen slug in there and the pipe hasn’t burst."

Peters says don't use an open flame or a torch, because that can — and often does — lead to a fire.

"We also recommend: allow a faucet to run. Just let it drip pretty consistently when the temperatures get this cold," he notes, as moving water won't freeze as easily.

And if you're too late?

He says if water isn't flowing in all of your faucets, the freeze might be outside the house. In which case, call Greater Cincinnati Water Works.

Peters says GCWW crews will open up the line coming into the water main to determine where the water is stopped. "If it's not coming into the meter yet, that's our responsibility. If it's inside the meter, we're still going to try to figure out if it's on our or yours, the homeowner's."

Water mains may be a little less likely to freeze or burst. Peters says water is the most dense when it hits 39 degrees Fahrenheit, and that's when they see the most water main breaks. "So right now the water temperature in the Ohio River is between 50 and 55 degrees, and as it pushes through the system it doesn't loose too much temperature," he says. "So we won't see a huge increase to the density change until a little bit later in the season."

Peters says the movement of the water and ground insulation should help keep mains from freezing and bursting.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.