Winter vs. Your Pipes

It’s been unseasonably cold this winter and while some of you have already taken advantage of our plumbing repair service, others may be worried about the effects of winter on their pipes. Every year, hundreds of thousands of homeowners experience burst pipes that can cause damage to carpets, furniture, electrical wiring, and even cause mold and/or mildew buildup.

The good news is: If you live in the Northeast (or another area that experience cold winters) your plumbing is better off than the plumbing in southern states. This is because the pipes up North are laid better and are more protected than the pipes in the South. Still, it’s important to know what could happen to your pipes and what to do if something goes wrong.

How Pipes Burst

In order to prevent your pipes from bursting, it’s important to understand how they freeze. The general assumption is that the water in your pipes freezes and as the ice grows, it pushes against the pipes, causing them to burst. This isn’t exactly the case, however. While pipe bursts are caused by ice, pipes usually don’t burst in the same area that the ice is sitting. Instead, water pressure builds between an ice blockage and a closed faucet at the end of the pipe. When the pressure becomes too great, the pipe will burst. This only happens in areas where the water flows downstream, since water flowing upstream from the ice blockage can flow back to its source.

At What Temperature Will Pipes Freeze?

The temperature at which your pipes will freeze depends on many factors such as: where your pipes are located, how much insulation is around your pipes, and how old your pipes are. Even though water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, you don’t usually have to worry about your pipes at that temperature. According to The Weather Channel, pipes that are un-insulated and located in an unconditioned attic will freeze around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that if your pipes are insulated, you have a little more leeway. Still, it never hurts to take precautions.

Plumbing Protection

Take note of the flow path that your water follows. The pipes closest to the water source are ones you generally don’t have to worry about. Pipes that are further away or pipes located in crawl spaces or attics are more at risk for bursting, however, so it’s important that they are insulated well. Make sure your insulation is sufficient around elbows and “T”s where your pipes are more susceptible to freezing. It’s also important to seal up holes or cracks in your outside walls to prevent pockets of cold air from reaching your pipes.

If you know the outside temperature is going to drop, open up the cabinet doors in your kitchen and bathroom to allow warm air to circulate around your pipes. Also, open up your faucets and let your water flow (just at a slow drip). While this won’t keep your water from freezing, it will help alleviate some of the pressure in your pipes.

If you’re leaving your home for a period of time, the best way to prevent pipe bursts is to drain your water system before you go. If your pipes don’t have water, they won’t be able to freeze. Also, remember to disconnect your garden hose (if you have an outside faucet).

When to Call Oliver

If you turn your faucet on and no water comes out, leave the faucet on (to relieve some of the pressure) and call our plumbing repair service immediately at 1-888-810-2681. If you’ve already experienced a burst pipe, turn off your main water valve (which is usually located where the main water line enters your house), turn on your faucets to relieve pressure, and call us.