Near-zero temperatures and gusty winds are in the forecast for Sunday and Monday, Jan. 20 and 21, and Maine Water is encouraging customers to take steps to prevent damage caused by freezing of water pipes inside and outside the home. The utility issued a press release Jan. 18 to inform homeowners about how to protect water pipes and meters in during extreme cold.

Pipes bringing water in from a public water system or a private well, and water meters, are usually located near exterior walls and are vulnerable to freezing during extreme cold and windy conditions. When water inside a pipe or water meter freezes, it can restrict or completely block the flow of water to the rest of the home, damage pipes and the meter, and flood basements when the ice thaws and water gushes in through split pipes and meters.

Property owners are responsible for the maintenance of the water service line from the curb to the house, as well as for any in-home piping, including meter repair costs.  ustomers and private well owners should take the following precautions to reduce the chances that pipes will freeze or burst and that water meters will be damaged.

Locate the shutoff valve and be sure it is working properly in case of an emergency.

Protect outside pipes and faucets. If there is a separate shutoff valve for the outside faucet, turn it off and drain the lines. If not, wrap and insulate outside faucets or hose bibs.

Check for broken windows or damaged skirting that might cause freezing to pipes or a meter in a basement or crawl space.

Caulk around pipes where they enter the house. Seal cracks or holes in windows, walls or doors near the meter or pipes.

Make sure room heat can circulate freely around the meter and water pipes.

Leave cabinet doors open where there is plumbing when the temperature is below freezing to allow more heat to the pipes.

Wrap interior pipes with insulation, particularly in unheated areas like a garage, basement or crawl space.

Homeowners who have had problems in the past with pipes freezing may want to let the water run at a slow rate in extreme cold. The extra cost in the water bill will be minimal compared to the cost of repairing a broken pipe. Homeowners can use a bucket or container to catch the dripping water and reuse it for another purpose.