Any exposed water main or water line should be insulated during the Winter to prevent frozen pipes. The same goes for a water line in an unheated environment – Even a buried NYC water main less than 3 1/2′ deep should be insulated from frost. Insulating is not a complicated process at all, but it depends on the circumstances.
Unheated properties | A water line or water main above ground level in an unheated property needs to be protected. This is frequently the case in new buildings where all utilities are not installed yet or in summer vacation homes. Typically regular fiberglass house insulation can be carefully wrapped around the exposed pipe to prevent freezing.
If the water line is present next to the house sewer, the sewer line also provides some heat and should be included inside the wrapping.
- Exposed water line | Any water line exposed to the elements needs extra protection. In addition to applying extra layers of insulation, the insulation itself should be wrapped in plastic to make it waterproof.
If electricity is available ‘heat trace’ wiring can be easily installed to provide heat from an electrical source for added ‘peace of mind’.
- Shallow water main | Even a buried water main can be prone to freezing if it is not at least 3 1/2′ deep or if it is close to a gas main. A water main, no matter what time of year it is installed, must be at least 3 1/2′ feet deep in NYC to be below the frost line. Any main water line less than 3 1/2′ deep must be insulated with special hair felt insulation which will not compress, and then covered with plastic to make it waterproof. Installed properly even a shallow NYC main line will not freeze in the coldest Winter.
- Unoccupied properties | In cases where a reliable curb valve is present in the sidewalk area the water can be closed to the property as a 1st step. The 2nd step would be to disconnect the inside plumbing, open the main valve with the water off, and let the water drain out so no water is left inside any of the plumbing to freeze. This would prevent damage to any part of thewater supply system for the house.
Please note that no special tools or expertise is required to perform any of this work. Another point to note: Frequently damage will not be apparent until after a frozen pipe thaws – that is when water will come rushing out from frozen and split plumbing. So remember to inspect your plumbing after a freeze and before a thaw.
This article was written by David Balkan and is the sole property of Joseph L. Balkan Inc.
Joseph L. Balkan, Inc. | Sewer and Water Main Specialists
130-01 Jamaica Avenue Richmond Hill, NY 11418
Phone: (718) 849-0900 | Espanol (718) 943-5720 | Fax: (718) 849-9570