By Pam Emmerich

The North Tahoe Public Utility District has estimated that more than 4 million gallons of water was lost within our district boundaries alone during the winter of 2018/19 due to frozen and broken pipes in inadequately winterized homes.

Some of these homes escaped extensive damage because the pipes broke underneath the house, while other properties experienced tens of thousands of dollars in damage from water running through the walls or ceilings. The problem isn’t exactly the frozen pipes. It’s when the water that froze within the pipes, causing them to expand and crack, then thaws and runs out of the breaks. This can sometimes continue for an extended period of time, resulting in potentially extensive damage.

The most critical step toward winterizing your property is to make sure a water shut-off valve is installed and accessible no matter how deep the snow is in the winter. And be sure to turn off the valve every time the property will be unoccupied.

Even in the summer, property owners should consider turning off the water if they’re going to be gone. I remember coming home from a family vacation to find my dad’s office flooded, water still flowing from the upstairs toilet, through the ceiling in his office, onto the desk, and down into the basement. All of this was caused by a toilet seal that split and broke when no one was home.

In addition to turning off the water, it is also important to try to get as much water as possible out of the pipes by opening faucets — and leaving them open. The NTPUD also recommends flushing toilets after turning off their valves.

Once the shut-off valve is installed, it’s time to start closing things up and turning things off! Here’s the lowdown on lowering your risk of flooding or frozen pipes this winter.

Outside:
1. Remove any hoses; drain and put away. If possible, remove the handle of the hose bibs. The NTPUD has seen incidents where snow sliding off the roof or piling up beside the house has turned on the hose bib!

2. Winterize your irrigation system.

3. Close all the vents in the foundation or on the outside of your house. 

Inside:
1. Shut off the water to the house.

2. Drain as much water as possible from the pipes.

3. Open cabinet doors with noninsulated pipes on external walls.

4. Leave the heater on low to avoid freezing temperatures in the house. 

Visit ntpud.org/winterization to review all the tips from the NTPUD to help prevent frozen and broken pipes in your home or on your property. 

~ Pam Emmerich is the public information officer of the North Tahoe Public Utility District and has proudly served the district and its residents for 15 years.

Main Image Caption: DRIPPIN’ DANGER: It’s not just a leaky faucet or faulty system that can lead to flooding. Our cold lows in the winter lead to high possibilities of frozen water expanding and breaking pipes. When that water thaws it can cause major damage in walls and throughout the home. sorsillo/bigstockphoto.com