What to do when a hard freeze warning is in effect for the Austin area
Know where your main water shutoff valve is located and how to operate it.
The meter is located in the bigger vault at the bottom of the pic. This is where the city can turn off your water. Hopefully you will have a good access container on the homeowner’s valve for quicker access (the one with the green lid). We do see a lot of broken valve containers like the one to the left of the green lid, or not at all. Check to see what you have to work with. If you see 1) city meter access vault; and 2) Homeowner access containers (located on the house side of the meter vault), yours will be the one on the side where your home sits.
Operation of these valves depends on the type you have. If it looks like your water hose faucet, they work the same, counterclockwise to open and clockwise to close. See picture.
Next is the ball valve type and should only require a 1/4 turn. As you will see in the image (below, left), the yellow handle is in the closed position. When the valve is on, it will be in line with the waterline (below, right).
What if you don’t have access or your homeowner valve doesn’t work, and you need to get the water off NOW?! If you can access the city meter (sometimes it requires a key), you can turn off your water the way the city does. Having a meter key handy is best, but an adjustable wrench, or crescent wrench, with a 6”-8” screwdriver will work in a pinch. Adjust the wrench down to fit the curb valve rectangle top (see image below for location), slip the screwdriver through the eye of the wrench to help you rotate the valve (same as your water hose faucet, counterclockwise to close).
Once your water is off, open some faucets partway to relieve the pressure.
Protect all exposed outside water faucets and lines.
All exposed plumbing needs to be protected from freezing temperatures and wind. This is best accomplished by using covers for your hose faucets. Unfortunately, not all big box stores stock these in a ready supply. Here is what you can do as a workaround:
- Wrap an old towel, rag, or even a shirt around the pipe and faucet. Try to have at least made a 3/4”-1” thick layer for protection.
- Secure it with duct tape (so many uses!), zip ties, rope or string
- Cover with a gallon sized Ziplock bag (or something similar to create an air pocket) and secure snugly with duct tape
- This next part is not required but helps. Take a plastic grocery bag and insert all your work into the bag and tie it off.
- Repeat for all exposed hose faucets.
- Drip some faucets indoors (at least 8 drips per min on a cold faucet and a hot faucet) because moving water is harder to freeze.
- Open cabinets under the sinks
- Fill up a bathtub for extra water to use in toilet flushing in case the water is turned off (1 gal. poured directly into the bowl).
Don’t wait until it’s too late to prepare for a freeze warning! Make sure you and your family are safe and prepared by following these tips. Don’t risk the safety of your home and loved ones – take the time now to protect yourself from the cold. If you experienced issues with burst pipes, make sure to call us at Honest Plumbing & Air.