3 Tips for Dealing With a Frozen Water Meter

Updated March 3, 2022
One and a half story house covered in snow
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Ah, winter. Cozy sweaters. Warm cocoa. A crackling fire. And a frozen water meter? Well, maybe not everything about winter is suitable for a holiday greeting card. When you’re a homeowner, though, you know all too well the havoc that winter’s harsh conditions can wreak on your plumbing.

Frozen water meters, and even water pipes, can burst or block water flow, which is an expensive repair or replacement. Preventing the meter and your pipes from freezing is easier than trying to thaw them after the fact. (Hint: Don't try to do this yourself. Call a professional plumber near you instead.)

If you’re looking to protect your plumbing and manage electricity costs, your outdoor winterizing plan should include your water meter. Here are a few tips for dealing with a frozen water meter and how to avoid it in the first place.

If Your Water Meter is Already Frozen: Call in the Professionals

If you find yourself facing low water pressure or no water at all, you may be looking at a frozen meter. 

If that happens, the best thing you can do is call in a professional rather than attempting to “thaw out” the meter yourself. A plumber will inspect your meter and the rest of your system for signs of damage from the freeze. They can also safely thaw your system or advise you on the best way to do this yourself. And, if repairs are needed, your pro can take care of that too!

If your meter is frozen, you’ll also need to reach out to your local utility company. If you have an outside meter, it’s the utility company’s responsibility to replace it. If the meter is in your house or an outbuilding, then you’ll be responsible for the replacement or repair, though you’ll still need to notify the utility of the issue.

3 Tips to Prevent Frozen Water Meters

By far, the best way to deal with a frozen water meter is to prevent it from freezing in the first place.

1. Keep The Meter Warm

Closeup of a person wearing a sweater opening a cabinet
Photo: PORNCHAI SODA / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Spoiler alert: A warm meter is less likely to freeze. The more warm air you can push toward your meter, the better. 

If your heater is in a cabinet or a separate room, open any doors leading to that space. This will allow heated room air from other parts of your home to circulate around your meter and help prevent it from freezing.

If your meter is in the basement, you should remember that the coldest temperatures are usually found near the floor and along exterior walls. So if your meter is in one of these cold zones, you’ll need to take care to get the warm air flowing with heat cables, insulation, or other safe heating sources.

In fact, preparing your plumbing system in this way should become the centerpiece of your winterizing to-do list if you want to avoid the hassle of a damaged system, water leaks and outages, and costly and time-consuming repairs.

2. Mind Your Outdoor Meter

If your water meter is in an outdoor pit, make sure it is covered fully. Be on the lookout for gaps or cracks through which cold wind can enter.

Meters, pipes, and valves are especially likely to freeze when placed against concrete walls. If possible, move your system away from the wall to allow the warmth to circulate. If not, then good insulation or heating cables will be your best friend!

3.  Leave the Heat On While Away

Man wearing a sweater adjusting thermostat
Photo: RossHelen / iStock / Getty Images Plus

If you’re going to be out of town for a while, it might be tempting to turn the heat off or lower the thermostat significantly to save on your heating bills. But that can be a mistake when it comes to protecting your water meter and pipes.

Keeping your heat on and opening cabinets and room doors to ensure that warm air continues to circulate around your pipes and your indoor meter will help your system withstand subfreezing temps. And you won’t come home to a nasty surprise!

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