Why Pipes Freeze and How to Stop it From Happening to You
About the only time you want to hear the sounds of snap, crackle and pop is from a fireplace or your breakfast cereal, but never from the water pipes in your home or business. And once one ruptures, it can release hundreds of gallons per hour, causing extensive water damage to your property. Unfortunately, SERVPRO of Nixa/Branson sees this happen all the time during the winter when pipes are allowed to freeze. But why do they break?
Water’s Weird Quality
Water reacts very differently from most other elements. When water cools, it contracts until it reaches approximately 40°F. After that, it expands slightly until it reaches the freezing point, when it then swells by about 9%. Since this is enough pressure to split open boulders, your pipes don’t stand a chance!
Recognize the Problem Areas
The pipes that are more likely to freeze are:
- Those exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose spigots, swimming pool supply lines, and water sprinkler lines.
- Water pipes in unheated interior areas like basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets, especially those that aren’t insulated.
- Pipes that run along outside walls that have little or no insulation.
Nip It in the Bud
Before cold weather sets in, follow these suggestions to protect your pipes from freezing:
- Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines.
- Close inside valves that supply outdoor spigots, then open the spigots to let any remaining water drain out. Keep outside valves open so that any water left in the pipe can expand without breaking it.
- Add high R-value insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces.
- Install "pipe sleeves" or wrap UL-listed "heat tape," "heat cable," or similar materials onto exposed water pipes.
- Keep garage doors closed if there’s a water supply line inside.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets to let warmer air circulate around the plumbing.
- Once the temperature reaches 28°F outside, let water drip from both the cold and hot water faucets. This not only keeps water moving through the pipes but relieves built-up water pressure should they freeze.
- Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature day and night. A slightly higher electric bill costs less than a repair job on a broken pipe and subsequent water damage.
- If you’re a snowbird and will be gone for a while, leave the heat in your home set to no lower than 55°F.
Many times, a frozen pipe will burst in the middle of the night when it’s coldest. Unfortunately, that’s also the time you’re asleep and so you may not be aware of the problem until hours later, compounding the water damage and the cost to repair it. So do all you can to ensure that it doesn’t happen to you. But if it does, call SERVPRO of Nixa/Branson any time of the day or night and we’ll make it “Like it never even happened.”