Cold Tempratures – Are Your Pipes Going to Survive?

Whether you own a home or a condo – make sure you are prepared for winter!

Water pipes burst because the water inside them expands as it gets close to freezing, and this causes an increase in pressure inside the pipe. When the pressure gets too high for the pipe to contain, it ruptures.

We grew up with water all around us and so this expansion phenomenon seems natural, but interestingly, it is a chemical anomaly. Most liquids do not expand just before transition to solid. You should be thankful for this; it is one of the reasons that life exists.

When a liquid cools the molecules slow down (temperature really is just a measure of the average kinetic energy of the molecules). This slowing down allows the molecules to get closer together and increases the density of the liquid. This happens with water too, and when water is cooled down, it gets denser and denser, down to 3.98°C then, something interesting occurs; it starts to expand again.

BOTTOM LINE  – Don’t let pipes FREEZE!

How to Protect Pipes From Freezing
Before the onset of cold weather, (WHICH  IS  NOW!)  protect your pipes from freezing by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer’s or installer’s directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
  • Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  • Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a “pipe sleeve” or installing UL-listed “heat tape,” “heat cable,” or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.
  • Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F. (or if you have a basement – keep it at 55!)

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