Unprotected pipes and water meters can freeze and expand within hours of the onset of frigid weather.

With that thought in mind, Aquarion Water Company has issued a reminder to its customers in the Greater New Milford area that every winter, unsuspecting property owners experience catastrophic frozen pipe bursts.

Pipes running through uninsulated exterior walls or other unheated spaces usually are at the highest risk, although pipes in heated rooms can freeze if exposed to cold drafts.

Frozen pipes can burst, resulting in thousands of dollars in damage for remodeling, mold remediation, emergency substitute housing costs, as well as the loss of irreplaceable belongings.

To help avoid these problems, tips are offered on Aquarion's website, www.aquarionwater.com.

"It doesn't take much. Even a tiny split in a pipe can spew hundreds of gallons of water into your home or business in one day," said Donna Parlatore, director of utility operations for Aquarion. "We strongly encourage property owners to review and utilize the frozen pipe and meter prevention tips on our website to prevent this from happening to them."

Some actions to prevent frozen pipes include:

Let a faucet fed by pipes exposed to the cold drip to prevent the water inside from freezing.

Never completely shutting off the heat in a building unless all the pipes and toilets are drained first.

Keep the doors to rooms where the pipes and water meter are located, including sink cabinets, open so warm air can keep temperatures above freezing.

Eliminate cold drafts near water pipes and, if indoors, the water meter, by filling cracks in walls and around windows, replacing broken glass, and installing storm windows on basement windows.

It is the responsibility of property owners to keep pipes and water meters from freezing and making appropriate service calls.

If a meter were to freeze, Aquarion will send a service technician to replace it, but the company will not thaw frozen pipes or repair burst ones.

Parlatore said anyone trying to thaw a pipe on his or her own should never use a torch or open flame.

"We would recommend contacting a licensed plumber," she said.

For more information on Aquarion Water Company and its subsidiaries, visit www.aquarionwater.com or www.facebook.com/aquarionwater.