Protect your water lines and meter from freezing
Every winter, some Calgarians will experience freezing water pipes, service lines, water meters and water outages. This is a common occurrence and happens in many Canadian municipalities.
Why does this happen?
Homes and businesses can be at risk for many different reasons.
Some major factors that cause underground service pipes to freeze include the buried depth of water service pipes, water temperature and frost depth.
Customers closest to the river and in older communities tend to be at a greater risk of buried service pipes freezing. However, any property can experience freezing inside because of preventable reasons like inadequate heat or cold drafts.
You are responsible for protecting the water meter, valves and pipes located on your property from freezing. Locate your main shut-off valve and ensure it is insulated from cold structures like concrete walls and floors. Here are some other tips to help you be prepared for cold weather.
I received a notice regarding frozen pipes. What should I do?
If your water service has been identified as at risk for freezing this winter, you will receive a letter from The City.
To see steps on what actions you should take, visit Frozen Pipes Prevention Program.
Look for cold drafts
Check in unheated areas where water supply lines are located. Usual locations include: basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
Seal your home from winter
Repair broken windows, check doors and insulate areas that allow cold exterior air to enter.
Both hot- and cold-water pipes should be insulated in cold areas. Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes, like a pipe sleeve, or installing UL-listed heat tape, heat cable or similar materials.
Open interior doors and cabinets
Allow heat from the house to warm unprotected pipes and water meters in cold basements and similar areas.
Keep the heat on
Keep your thermostat set for at least 15°C. If away for extended absences, refer to your home insurance policy on how often someone should be checking your home / monitoring for freezing.
Winterize outside faucets and other water features
Make sure the water line to outside faucets, garden hoses, pools or decorative water features is turned off, disconnected, and drained. If these lines freeze, they can burst which may cause water to drain into your home.
Check your hot water tank
If your hot water tank is located in a maintenance room outside of your home, make sure the area is adequately heated.
Regularly run water through pipes
Regularly run water in your pipes through everyday use.
Frozen water lines - frequently asked questions
What are some signs that my pipes are frozen and what action should I take?
Frozen water can burst pipes and cause flooding in your home.
No water, or very little water, coming out of your faucet
Check all faucets in your home.
Frost on your internal pipes
A large amount of frost on internal pipes and main shut off valve located in your basement.
What should I do if my water service freezes?
If your house or basement is flooding:
- Turn off the main shut-off valve.
- The water main shut-off valve is often located near the water meter at the point where the water line enters your home. This is typically in your basement.
- If you live in a condo or townhome, call your building owner or manager.
- Contact 311.
If little or no water is coming out of faucets or you find frost on internal pipes:
- See if a main break repair caused a water outage in your area.
How to try to thaw frost on your pipes:
Proceed with caution and at your own risk. We encourage you to contact a professional plumber or seek assistance if you are unsure or require help.
- Run your hand along the water line to find a cold spot.
- Turn on the closest faucet and thaw from the faucet towards the blockage. This reduces the chance of a pipe burst.
- Heat the area with a hair dryer, heating pad, electrical heater, hot water bottles or hot towels.
- Be patient, this may take minutes or hours. Do not attempt this in a confined space. Do not use any open flames and do not leave items unattended.
- Check other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes.
- Contact 311 if water is still not flowing.
What will happen once I report my frozen pipes to 311?
We will contact you and may send a crew to confirm if your service is frozen.
Please note: Response times may be delayed due to high volumes. For faster service, you have the option to contact a plumber at your own expense.
To learn more about next steps and The City of Calgary's process for thawing frozen pipes, visit Water Service Lines in Calgary.
Water service is a shared responsibility. While thawing The City of Calgary's portion of the pipe, we will also attempt to thaw your private property portion of the water pipe to fully restore water to your home.
Before we can take this action, the homeowner will need to complete a Work Authorization Form.
Homeowner and City of Calgary responsibilities for water lines:
In most cases, the property line ends a few metres from the edge of the curb or sidewalk. The property owner is responsible for all repair costs to the service on private property (this includes missing, damaged, or frozen water meters). To learn more about water service line responsibilities, visit Water Service Lines in Calgary.