Mild temperatures today are expected to dip into the 30's on Thursday, putting water pipes at potential risk. New Jersey American Water is offering preventative measures that homeowners can take to avoid having pipes freeze and burst when temperatures consistently fall below freezing.

Kevin Keane, spokesperson for the utility, noted that the frequency of water pipe breaks goes up during the cold winter months and stressed the importance of having everyone in the home know where the main water shut-off valve is located, in the the event of an emergency.

The valve is typically located where the water line enters the home, such as in a basement, crawlspace, or utility closet, according to the utility.

"During the cold weather, there are sometimes cracks and gaps and areas that are typically not insulated that the cold weather can get to and if there's pipes there, they can quickly freeze," cautioned Keane.

Exposed pipes can be protected with heat tape, pre-molded foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation, available at hardware stores, which Keane described as "Very cheap insurance to get."

Having to pay for a pipe repairs can be costly, warned Keane. "The cost could be significant if you have a burst pipe, especially getting a plumber during this time of year when they're getting a lot of calls," he said.

Keane encouraged homeowners to open cabinets to let warm air inside the home reach the pipes to kitchen and other sinks up against cold, exterior walls.

"Another trick is to allow a small trickle of water to run overnight. That keeps pipes from freezing," said Keane.

In addition, the lids of a water meter located outside should be closed tightly to prevent cold air from getting in, according to Keane.

If your pipes do freeze, shut off the water immediately, then apply heat by warming the air around it, but avoid using kerosene heaters or open flames.

Once the pipes have thawed, New Jersey American Water advises slowly turning the water back on and checking for cracks and leaks.

If you are going away, set the thermostat at 55 degrees to prevent freezing pipes and have a relative, friend or neighbor regularly check your property to make sure the heat is working and the pipes haven't frozen.

To report a leak or a disruption in service, customers can contact New Jersey American Water at 1-800-272-1325.