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WSSC Water is #WinterReady - are you?

Before winter weather arrives, it's important that you take steps to protect your home and pipes from the cold - to prevent the pipes and your inside water meter from freezing or possibly bursting. An extra benefit: you might also reduce your heating costs.

First things first: Keep these important phone numbers handy:

  • WSSC Water Emergency Service Center
  • WSSC Water Customer Service Center

View current conditions (Potomac River Water Temperatures and Water Main Breaks)

breaks and leaks graph 2024
When a Water main breaks
fast facts about winter weather
a decade of winter water main breaks

Important tips for homeowners

Here are some key steps to take before freezing weather hits:

prevent frozen pipes
  • Turn off the water to outside faucets, remove hoses and drain the pipes
  • From the inside, cover any open vents with insulation, plastic or cardboard
  • Tightly close all doors and windows, repair as necessary to seal out drafts
  • Insulate and repair outside-facing walls
  • On colder nights, it's a good idea to open cabinet doors to expose pipes to your home’s warmth
  • The temperature where water meters and interior pipes are located must be a minimum of 55 degrees Fahrenheit from November 1 through April 1
  • On very cold nights, let your kitchen or bathroom faucets drip slowly to keep water moving

NOTE: Pipe Insulation works only if the interior living space is heated. To insulate your pipes, you can find the materials you need at your local hardware or plumbing store.

Check to be certain that any water lines or fire sprinkler piping installed in the attic are properly insulated above the piping with a continuous R30 rating.

If a pipe in your home freezes:

  • Completely open the cold and/or hot water faucet closest to the frozen pipe. This will relieve pressure and reduce the chance of breakage
  • If you decide to try thawing the pipe yourself, use a hand-held electric hair dryer
  • If in doubt, call a registered plumber for help
be prepared - how much water will you need in an emergency

Be prepared: Store water

A water main break can occur at any time, but especially during winter months. Additionally, meters sometimes can freeze, causing an unexpected water outage. Be prepared: Store water for your household ahead of time. The rule of thumb is to store one-to-two gallons per person, per day, to last at least three days. Remember to store water for your pets!

Winterize your home before an extended absence

If you will be away for an extended period, follow these tips to winterize your home, to remove water that can freeze inside pipes and other areas. While nobody can guarantee against frozen or broken pipes, it's important that you take preventive winterizing steps. If you choose not to winterize your home before an extended absence, be aware that it is your responsibility if the water meter freezes.

You may prefer contacting a registered Master Plumber to do the work. If you do, be sure to obtain the plumber’s WSSC Water​ license number and verify that it's current.

If you turn off the water system, please read this important information:

  • Close the main water valve or supply to your home. This valve is usually located in the basement or laundry room of your home
  • After the main valve has been securely turned off, open (turn on) all inside faucets - kitchen sink, bathroom sinks, tubs, showers and laundry room basin - and all outside faucets. Also, be sure to remove garden hoses from the outside spigots. The purpose of opening all faucets is to drain water from all the pipes in the home.
  • Turn off the heat source to the furnace/boiler and water heater
    1. If the water heater is electric or oil, turn off the power at the switch.
    2. If the water heater is gas, you must turn off the gas valve. In most cases, you can turn off the furnace by switching off the electrical power supply.
  • Drain the water heater
    1. Connect a hose to the spigot at the bottom of the water heater and let the water run into the floor drain.
    2. If you do not have a floor drain, extend the hose to a nearby laundry tub or to the outside of the house to let water out of the water heater.
  • Once the heater has been drained, be sure you close the valve at the base of the heater. (After all the pipes are drained, they should be protected.)

NOTE: If you have an electric water heater, special precautions must be used when draining and filling it. Electricity must be turned off before draining or refilling the water tank.

For Homes with fire sprinkler systems:

  • It's advisable that the residence be winterized by a professional in accordance with County guidelines
  • Turn off the valve above the sprinkler connection so that the sprinkler system remains active
  • Maintain the heat
  • When you return, remember to check the system to ensure it's active

Short absences

If you will be gone for a relatively short period of time, ask a reliable neighbor to check your property daily.

Last Modified: January 22, 2024, 11:33 am EST