Winter Weather Water Guide

WINTER WEATHER WATER GUIDE

Handy Tips to Keep Your Pipes from Freezing

It’s all about prevention

Frozen Pipes can leave you without water in the worst of weather.  And cost a lot to repair.  But with a few simple steps, you can easily preserve both your budget and your peace of mind.


BEFORE COLD WEATHER SETS IN:

Check sprinkler or irrigation systems.  Make sure you’ve turned everything off and fully drained the system.

Identify your home’s freezing points.  Check your home for pipes in areas that might be prone to freezing, such as crawl spaces, unheated rooms, basements, garages, and exterior walls.

Protect your pipes.  Where pipes are exposed to cold, wrap them with insulation or electrical pipe heater (even fabric or newspaper can help).

Strengthen your defenses.  Eliminate sources of cold air near water lines by closing off crawl spaces, fixing drafty windows, insulating walls and attics, and plugging drafts around doors.

Know how to shut off your water.  Locate your main water shut-off valve.  You may want to tag or label it so you don’t have to search for it in an emergency.


WHEN TEMPERATURES STAY BELOW FREEZING:

Keep water working.  When temperatures remain near 10°F, customers might want to leave a very thin stream of water running continuously from at least one tap – preferably the one farthest from the meter.  The additional cost of the water is cheaper than the cost of repairing ruptured pipes.

Give pipes a helping hand.  If pipes run through cabinets or vanities, open the doors to let warmer room temperatures flow in.


BUT IF YOUR PIPES DO FREEZE:

Shut off the water immediately.  Don’t attempt to thaw pipes without turning off the main shut-off valve.

Thaw pipes with warm air.  You can melt the frozen water in the pipe by warming the air around it with a hair dryer or space heater.  Be sure not to leave the space heaters unattended and avoid the use of kerosene heaters or open flames.

Be careful turning water back on.  Once pipes are thawed, slowly turn the water back on and check pipes and joints for any cracks or leaks that might have been caused by freezing.

Where do I begin to investigate to see if there is a leak somewhere in my house?

There are many possible causes and potential solutions for leaks in your home or business water distribution system.  The most problematic are leaks that are slow and secretive - typically near a drain or outside where they are not readily detected.  These types of leaks are typically in toilets, water softeners, crawl spaces, outside hoses or lawn irrigation/sprinkler systems, or other places where a leak might not be readily evident.

First you need to locate your water meter.  The water meter is usually located in the basement somewhere on the front wall of the house or perhaps in the laundry room or in a utility closet.  Once you have located your meter, look at the low flow dial located on the register head.  If the low flow dial is moving, it is probable that you have a leak.  If you are sure that there is not any water being used in the building and the meter is moving, we suggest you check the following:

  • Check all areas of your home or business and listen for running water sounds.
  • Shut off every water device.  Check you water meter.  It should not indicate flow.
  • Next, lift the lids on all toilet tanks and see if the water level is too high and running into the overflow tube.  Make corrections or repairs as needed (check out our FAQ "How to fix a running toilet").
  • Check to see if there is any water moving around in the toilet bowl.  Each toilet has a shut off valve on the supply line.  Shut off all of the toilets and wait approximately 5 minutes.  Return the supply of water to each toilet, one at a time, and listen to hear which toilet fills.  If it does, it is an indication of a leaking toilet.
  • Check your water softener if you have one.  These sometimes leak internally or externally allowing water to continue to pass through the system needlessly.  If you can shut the water off to the softener, you can then recheck the water meter to see if this isolates the problem.
  • Check you hot water heater and/or hot water heat system (when applicable) to ensure that is is not leaking or that the overflow valve is not leaking.  If so, repair.
  • Check all outside hose bibs to make sure you are not losing water through hoses or outside fixtures.
  • If you have an underground sprinkler system, make sure it is functioning properly and not leaking somewhere outdoors.

In summary, your water meter is a mechanical device which should NOT move unless water is passing through.  It is worth your time to find any leaks in your home or business!

How do I fix a running toilet?

The sound of a running toilet....it can keep you awake at night.  If your toilet is running constantly, you could be wasting 200 gallons of water or more every day.  Not only is that running toilet wasteful, but it can also be expensive.

Most repairs are simple and inexpensive and don't require a plumber.  First, get to know your tank.  To get started, you'll need to remove the lid from the top of the toilet tank and set it aside.  You may want to place it on a towel to catch any water that might be on it or to prevent it from breaking.  Familiarize yourself with the inside of the tank.  Don't be afraid to get your hands wet, the water in the tank is clean (unlike the water in the bowl) and any discoloration in your tank would be the result of mineral accumulation.

Flushing the toilet lifts the flush valve and allows the water to flow into the toilet bowl.  The flow activates the siphon that sucks the water and any waste into the sewer system.  The flapper then covers the hole, and the fill valve injects water into the bowl and fills until the float reaches a certain level and shuts off the valve.

When a toilet is running, it means the water is flowing into the tank or bowl and not stopping.  

First try to jiggle the handle on your toilet.  Does the running water stop?  If so, you need to adjust the chain or handle itself.  Here's how:

  • Check the mounting nut for the handle on the inside of the tank.  It may be sticking and not letting the handle get back in the right place when it's let go.  If that is the case, simply clean it.
  • Check the chain to make sure it doesn't have too much slack.  If this happens, it can get caught under the flapper, causing water to leak down into the toilet.  Adjust the chain as necessary.
  • Check to make sure the chain is not broken.  Often these get corroded or just weakened over time and break apart.  Replace with a new one so it hangs straight with about 1/2 inch in slack.
  • If you do not have a chain in your tank, check to be sure your lift-wire isn't bent.  If it is, try to straighten it out until the toilet operates smoothly.

Second, could it be the toilet flapper?  A common problem is the flapper hasn't covered the hole all the way inside the toilet.  The float never reaches proper height and water continuously enters the tank and the bowl.

  • Simply reposition the flapper over the hole and flush again.  Watch to see if the flapper covers the hole or if it becomes slightly off again.  If it is still off, then the flapper's rubber has become deformed or worn and it's not positioning itself correctly so this will need to be replaced.  This item is easily found at most hardware stores.

Third, if the flapper is positioned correctly, then the problem lilkely stems from the float or fill valve.  Check the position of the float and make sure the float is not stuck above the overflow tube.  If it is, then the water never reaches a height that tells the fill valve to shut off.  Adjust the float either by bending the metal arm down or turning a set of screws that lowers the arm further into the water.  Check to float manually to see if it is cracked and filling with water.  A broken float ball should be replaced.

Toilet still running? If your still not sure or unable to fix the leak yourself, it might be time to call a plumber!

Preventative Maintenance - It's a good idea to test annually for silent leaks using dye tablets or food coloring.  Simply drop a dye tablet (provided by PRA at no cost) or a few drops of food coloring in your tank and wait a few minutes.  If color appears in your toilet bowl, you know you have a leak.

What makes water hard and should I install a water softener?

Over the course of time, water will dissolve or erode almost any material that it comes in contact with.  This is a natural occurence that contributes to the hardness of water.  Technically, hard water is water having a high concentration of calcium and magnesium ions.  These, along with other minerals, are commonly present in all natural water.

When water that contains any degree of hardness evaporates, it can leave residual mineral deposits.  Although the minerals in drinking water are beneficial to good health, the aesthetic effects caused by hardness are the most common reasons to soften water.  Softening is accomplished with synthetic resin media by exchanging ions of calcium and magnesium that contribute to hardness with ions of sodium.  Although this method of softening can produce water with zero hardness, it is important to understand the limitations of the process.

  • Homes that use these devices show elevated levels of lead and cooper in the plumbing system due to the aggressive nature of the softened water.  For this reason, the Authority cannot use a property that incorporates softening equipment for water analysis monitoring.
  • Ion exchange softeners increase the sodium content of the treated water and may be potentially harmful to persons that are on sodium-restricted diets.
  • The softening process removes the chlorine residual from the water and may accelerate bacteria growth within the plumbing system.
  • The disposal of spent brine solution and rinse water from softener regeneration is becoming a major problem and can impact wastewater treatment facilities and septic systems.  Softener byproducts are corrosive to material they contact and possess verying toxic levels in relationship with the environment.

There are approximately 14 grains of hardness in PRA's water system.  Remember that this value is an average and may vary slightly due to seasonal demands.

Please click here for an article on "Hard Facts About Hard Water" http://perkasieauthority.org/public-documents

Why does PRA flush the water lines and when do you do it?

Hydrant flushing is conducted by PRA in the spring each year to assist in removing sediment and mineral deposit buildup that collects in the water mains and lines. Though discolored water may appear from a faucet during the flushing programs, it helps to minimize it throughout the year.

What is Perkasie Regional Authority's Public Water Supply ID Number and what can I find using that number?

PRA's PWSID Number is 1090046. When accessing the DEP website and going to the drinking water tab, you can use this number to view the public files of the Authority at DEP regarding sampling results, violations, contact information, etc. To access the DEP website, please click HERE.

What is the difference between the Borough of Perkasie and Perkasie Regional Authority?

Authorities are incorporated by municipalities such as a boroughs, townships or counties. However, once they are established, they become instruments of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the only role the incorporating municipalities have is to appoint Board Members. Authorities operate under a business manor and not in a government manor. The intent of authorities is a pay as you go philosophy whereby only the user of the services pays for those services and non users have no responsibility to pay for a service they are not using.

How can I find out more about drinking water and other public health issues?

For more information, NSF International has a toll free consumer hotline at 1-877-8NSF-HELP. Also, you may go to their consumer web pages at NSF for helpful information on water related topics.

I've discovered a leak in the pipe near my water meter. Will PRA repair the leak?

The repair of any plumbing other than the water meter is the homeowner's responsibility. PRA is not responsible for plumbing inside the home, water service lines in the ground on the house side of the curb or past the curb stop which is the valve used by the Authority to turn your water service off or on.

Can I fill my pool with public water and would I be charged sewer fees?

Yes.

While Perkasie Regional Authority does not offer the service of filling pools, the Authority does not discourage our customers from filling their pools with public water.  If you choose to fill a pool from your hose, the water cost would be an additional $4.30 per 1,000 gallons of water.  This means that if your pool requires 10,000 gallons of water, the additional water charges added to your quarterly bill would be $43.00. 

Please keep in mind that if you are connected to the Authority’s sewer system, Perkasie Regional Authority does NOT offer credits for the sewer portion of your bill when filling the pool.

If you are connected to the Authority’s sewer system, the sewer charges would be an additional $7.15 per 1,000 gallons needed.  That means that if your pool requires 10,000 gallons of water, the additional sewer charges added to your quarterly bill would be approximately $71.50., we assess sewer fees to all water used including filling the pool, washing the car, watering the lawn, etc., but only in those areas where we provide both water and sewer service.

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