Any exposed water main or water line should be insulated during the Winter season to prevent frozen pipes and associated issues. 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 freezing and frost. Insulating is not a complicated process at all, but it depends on the particular circumstances and where the water line is located.
Prevent Frozen Pipes In Unheated Buildings
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.
Prevent Frozen Exposed Water Lines
Any water line exposed to the elements needs extra protection. In addition to applying additional layers of insulation, the insulation itself should be plastic encased to ensure it is waterproof. If an electrical connection is available ‘heat trace’ wiring can be easily installed to provide heat from an electrical source for added ‘peace of mind’.
Prevent Frozen Shallow Water Mains
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 that will not compress, and then waterproofed. If the line is installed correctly, even a shallow NYC main line will not freeze in the coldest Winter.
Prevent Frozen Pipes In 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 the water supply system for the house.
Please note that no special tools or expertise is required to perform any of this work. 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.