Cold Temperatures Could Freeze Pipes


Portland Water Bureau crews are preparing for winter weather. Maintenance & Construction crews are ready to respond to emergencies, including water main breaks, 24-hours a day, seven days a week. In Portland, water mains tend to break during the colder weather. Cold water can cause pipes to become brittle. Cold air can cause the ground above a pipe to freeze and thaw, increasing stress on a pipe. 

Prepare your home plumbing for winter weather

Everyone has a role when it comes to preparing for winter. Below are tips for protecting your home’s plumbing through rain, snow and ice. 

Outside Plumbing 

Wrap outside faucets or hose bibs with insulation if you don’t have a separate outside valve to turn them off. Use molded foam-insulating covers, which are available at hardware stores. Newspaper or rags (covered with plastic wrap) are another option. 

Disconnect garden hoses and drain in-ground irrigation systems.

Inside Plumbing

When freezing weather is expected, open cupboard doors in the kitchen and bathrooms. This allows these pipes to get more heat from inside your home.

If you leave home for several days, turn your furnace on low to help prevent frozen pipes.

Let a slight drip of water run when temperatures dip below freezing. Use cold water to avoid water heating charges.

What if a pipe freezes?

Thaw plumbing lines safely with a hair dryer. Once the pipe has thawed, leave a little water running so the pipe doesn’t freeze again.

Do not open the water meter box near the curb. It could increase the chance of freezing water at the meter.

What if a pipe breaks?

Broken pipes can be alarming but do not call 9-1-1 for a broken pipe. 

Close your main water shut-off valve to your house, typically located where the water line enters the house – either at the front of your house where you connect your hose, the basement near the hot water heater, or inside the garage. Note that not all houses have main water shut-off valves in addition to the valve in the water meter box. If you cannot locate the shut-off in the house, call the Water Bureau’s 24-hour Emergency Line at 503-823-4874.

Turn off the water heater. Locate the dedicated shut-off valve on the cold water inlet.

Repair of broken pipes on your side of the meter is your responsibility. Contact a plumber for repair work. If you have a leak, keep receipts and contact Customer Service at 503-823-7770 about a leak adjustment. If you receive financial assistance, call 503-823-4527 to learn about plumbing repairs.

Reporting a main break or experiencing discoloration

Anyone observing water running from streets or sidewalks is encouraged to report the leak to the Water Bureau’s 24-hour Emergency Line at 503-823-4874.

Anyone experiencing discoloration following a main break can reach the Water Quality Line during business hours at WBWaterLine@portlandoregon.gov and 503-823-7525, or visit this website to troubleshoot why water may be discolored: portland.gov/water/discolored water.

For more winter weather resources, visit www.portland.gov/omf/winterweatherservices#toc-protect-plumbing-report-water-main-breaks-and-other-service-impacts.

Source: Portland Water Bureau


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