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Extreme Cold Safety Tips

During winter in Toronto, homeowners deal with two interesting elements, namely water, and below freezing temperatures. The cold season puts your plumbing system at risk. With more people spending time indoors, more strain is placed on the water supply pipes, water heaters and drains, and this can lead to failures within the system.

Every year, hundreds of households across Toronto fall victim to frozen pipes. Lucky homeowners only experience interruptions in water supply when their water pipes freeze. However, since water expands when it freezes, it can cause your pipes to rupture.

Did you know? A small eighth of an inch long crack in the water supply line can pour two hundred and fifty gallons of water into your home in a day.

Remember, when you have a frozen pipe, the entire length of the pipe does not freeze instantly. Water freezes at 32 degrees under controlled conditions. Some studies have shown that the temperature threshold in frozen pipes outdoors is actually approximately 20 degrees. Being prepared for winter’s frigid conditions is a good way to safeguard your plumbing from freezing nighttime temperatures.

Extreme Cold Safety Tips: What to do when the temperatures drop significantly

When the forecast predicts a sudden drop in temperatures below 32 degrees, take the following steps to protect your pipes and your home.


1. Disconnect any garden hoses that were left outside during winterization.


2. Use the indoor shut-off valves to your outdoor faucets to turn off the water supply and drain out every last drop.

3. Shut off the water to outdoor lines, such as those leading to a garden pond or swimming pool and drain the lines.


4. Follow the instructions of your home sprinkler system owner’s manual to winter-proof the system.


5. Open a hot faucet in the bathroom and in the kitchen to a slow drip.


6. If your ice maker water line runs under the home, turn the icemaker on.


7. Open the cabinet doors under the bathroom basin and kitchen sink.


8. Check on the pipes in the laundry room.


9. Locate your home’s main water shut off valve and keep a cut-off key handy.


10. Place a portable space heater in unheated rooms with exposed water pipes.

11. Shut any vents that admit cold outdoor air into crawl spaces in order to keep the living spaces warm.


12. Inspect your sump pump and test the backup battery supply.

13. Ensure that the sump pump outlet is not blocked by snow so as to prevent the flow from backing up back into the basement.

14. Avoid adding additional strain on your plumbing system by paying attention to what is flushed down the drains.

15. Leave more time between showers and baths in order to give the water heater more time to heat up. When lines are chilled, the hot water heater requires more energy and thus a longer recovery time to heat the full tank to the appropriate setting on the thermostat.

16. Run the dishwasher at a low-demand time, such as overnight to further reduce strain on the water heater.

17. You may consider increasing the temperature on the water heater thermostat, but avoid setting it above 125 degrees so as to prevent scalding.

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