Winter means colder temperatures, but it doesn’t have to mean frozen pipes. There are simple steps you can take to avoid a cold weather nightmare before it happens. If you do get stuck with frozen pipes, there are troubleshooting steps you should follow.

To start, wrap and insulate all water pipes in unheated areas of your home. Your basement is a good place to start. Pay close attention to pipes near exterior walls, especially in kitchens and bathrooms.

When cold air blows on a pipe, it increases the risk of freezing. Winterizing pipes and windows doesn’t have to be costly or complicated.

If possible, replace windows with cracked glass. If you cannot replace old and broken windows that let cold air in, cover them with plastic and caulk areas where wind can blow in. This is most important when windows are near water meters and pipes. The video below shows you how:

Another inexpensive and easy way to prevent frozen pipes: Let a faucet run at a trickle overnight during a cold snap. It costs only pennies, and moving water helps prevent freezing.


What should you do if you suspect frozen pipes? First, check with a neighbor to see if they have water. If they don’t have water either, there may be a water main break. If you’re the only one without water, you may have frozen pipes.

Don’t apply direct heat to the pipes. Instead, use a space heater or hair dryer to warm the area around your water meter and pipes. At the same time, turn the faucet on so melting water can drip out.

Once the ice thaws, check if your pipes or water meter are damaged.  If your water meter is leaking, inform the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) by calling (215) 685-6300. PWD has released this helpful, animated website that includes other prevention and troubleshooting tips.


If you notice leaking pipes inside—or outside—your home, call a licensed and registered plumber. In Philadelphia, property owners are responsible for all pipes up to the water main. This includes pipes below your building and sidewalk.

If you’re facing costly repairs, you may qualify for assistance. The Homeowner’s Emergency Loan Program (HELP), provides eligible water customers with a zero-interest loan to repair water service pipes or sewer laterals.

Not everyone qualifies for HELP. Call (215) 685-4901, or visit our website for more information.

The Philadelphia Energy Authority (PEA), a municipal government entity, has partnered with a private firm to provide water and sewer line insurance for Philadelphia homeowners at a negotiated rate. This is not a PWD program, but it is one option that provides affordable protection plans for residents.

Photo credit: Cynthia Closkey/Flickr