LAKE COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) – It’s important to protect the water systems around our homes and businesses a little extra this time of year. That’s why the Lake County Department of Utilities is reminding its citizens of the importance of making sure pipes don’t freeze this winter.

According to the Department of Utilities, water pipes that are most likely to freeze are the ones in garages, crawl spaces, attics and on outside walls.

“When temperatures drop, water inside pipes can freeze and expand. This can cause the pipes to burst, leading to flooding and major damage to your home and or property. There is never a good time for costly and inconvenient repairs,” says Patrick Stitts, Public Service Coordinator for the Utilities Department.

According to the Department of Utilities, common signs of frozen pipes are low flow or a trickle when a faucet is being used, unusual sounds and frost being visible.

Stitts says, “You may not notice a water break right away while it is frozen. But as temperatures rise, it will usually appear and cause damage. Pipes freeze based upon three reasons: a drastic drop in temperature, poor insulation, and the thermostat being set too low/lack of heat.”

In the United States, frozen pipes cause a significant amount of damage each year. Unlike natural disasters, this disaster is largely preventable, according to the Utilities Department.

Outdoor Water Freezing Prevention:

Disconnect and drain outdoor garden hoses 

Drain the water from your sprinkler supply lines

Cover and insulate any outside faucets

Indoor Water Freezing Prevention:

Close inside valves that supply outdoor spigots, open the outside spigot valves and allow any remaining water to drain

Keep garage doors closed if water supply lines are located inside

Setting the thermostat in your house no lower than 55°F

Insulate any pipes that are located in unheated areas including crawl spaces, attics, garages, and pipes located against exterior walls

Consider wrapping pipes in unheated areas with electric heating tape

Allow a trickle of water to run from any faucet that has pipes located along exterior walls; the constant flow of water will help prevent water in the pipes from freezing

According to the Utilities Department, if a pipe bursts because of freezing water, the first step is to immediately shut off the water at the main shut-off valve.

Once the water is shut off, use an electric hair dryer or portable space heater to help thaw the pipe. It is important to never use a blowtorch or other flammable devices, according to the department.

For those who head south for the winter, Stitts recommends setting the thermostat in your house no lower than 55 degrees, having a friend or neighbor check your house daily, or contact the department to shut the water off at the street. According to the department, this service is free and only requires 24-hour notice for turning on and off.