Bitterly cold temperatures can threaten your home. Bozeman water authorities tell us they've received two calls about frozen pipes, but with temperatures set to go well below freezing Wednesday night, water officials say they're afraid they'll get more calls. It's why they're asking their customers to take precautions.
"Freezing of your water lines is totally preventable," says Bozeman Superintendent of Water and Sewer Operations John Alston.
Alston showed us a model waterline, complete with a shutoff valve and water meter. It's the area most susceptible to freezing. You can find yours in a crawl space or in the basement on the street side of your home.
Alston says it's important to make sure your basement doors near the line are closed and sealed and that the vents in your crawl space are closed.
"That cold air is like a blow torch in reverse," says Alston.
He says you should also ensure you have several feet of space around your meter so heat can reach your waterline.
"Those kind of preventative measures will keep a water line from freezing," Alston says.
If you suspect your water line has already frozen, folks with the Bozeman Fire Department caution you to think twice before fixing it yourself.
"People feel that it's an emergency and they need to get them thawed out right away so, they take an open flame rather than using the proper thawing technique and we see fires as a result of that," says Bozeman Fire Department Captain Kurt Bushnell.
Most of the time, city workers use a simple hair dryer to thaw out pipes, but for bigger jobs they use what Alston calls a "line thawer."
"It's the safest, non-flame, but you have to have two things, the dryer itself and a lot of patience. So, you just very slowly work the line," explains Alston.
When a hair dryer won't cut it, Alston shows us how they use the line thawer -- "Put in a tube that shoots jets of hot water and will break through the ice and unthaw that," Alston explains.
Alston says the city will respond to any home within city limits that doesn't have water. If you still can't thaw your water line and it was installed before 1999, they'll thaw it at no charge.
Alston adds, if you have a mobile home, make sure your heat tape is working.
He also says, if you're going out of town, turn off the water to your washing machine and toilet and open up cabinets under the sinks to allow warm air to your pipes.