How much of a trickle to keep pipes from freezing? Or, can a single leaky faucet cost that much? When temperatures drop below freezing, one of the most common results is damaged pipes.
But can a single leaky faucet prevent disaster? In case it’s the correct one. The leaking faucet needs to be as distant from the water supply as feasible for the water to travel the entire length of the pipe. Turning on any faucet to a slow drip can reveal the location of the water supply.
A widespread fallacy is that because water is always moving through the pipes when dripping, it cannot freeze. While this helps, it’s important to remember that in icy conditions, water can freeze even if it’s still flowing.
When pipes begin to thaw, the steady trickle from a dripping faucet can keep them from bursting due to the pressure buildup caused by the ice blockage and the faucet.
Causes of Frozen Pipes
Water is unlike any other substance because it expands when frozen. It exerts a force on the medium through which the water is held. No matter how sturdy a container is, water expansion or contraction can create stress and fracture. The plumbing in your home is included.
Frozen pipes are standard:
- Like outside hoses, pool supply lines, and water sprinklers, they are subjected to extreme cold.
- Lack of insulation along the length of the pipe that runs against an exterior wall.
What You Can Do to Prevent Frozen Pipes
1. The Pipes Should Be Enclosed
Water pipes situated along external walls or in unheated locations like a basement or attic are especially at risk of freezing and bursting in cold weather. Insulating pipes can help prevent this from happening.
One of the simplest and least expensive ways to stop pipes from bursting is to cover them up. Insulation for your pipes, like foam and fiberglass, can be purchased at your neighborhood hardware shop.
If you reside in an area where freezing temperatures are rare, you can protect your exposed pipes with newspaper.
2. On Chilly Days, Leave a Faucet Running.
A simple act like running a tap can go a long way toward avoiding frozen pipes. However, it’s among the most effective actions you can take. It would be best if you didn’t keep the tap on full blast, but a gentle drip is fine.
If you want to save water, use the sink’s faucet, that’s the furthest from the water supply. It will keep the water moving through your pipes and reduce the likelihood of them freezing over the winter. Maintaining the water trickling through any exposed pipes that supply your tips is also a good idea.
3. Do Not Tinker With the Thermostat.
You probably know that the Department of Energy suggests turning down the heat in your home throughout the winter to save energy, but this advice is useless when a cold snap hits.
Instead, you should maintain a steady temperature on your thermostat throughout the day and night. If you do this, your pipes will be less prone to freeze and rupture. Keeping the heat on consistently suits your furnace and is especially important during cold snaps.
4. Add Insulation to Cold Rooms
The temperature of the pipes is lower in an unheated location than in a room with a constant, comfortable temperature, such as a basement.
By insulating the unheated areas of your home, you reduce the risk of frozen and broken pipes. Insulated houses also use less energy since heat is retained throughout the winter.
Insulation is something you can do if you’re the hands-on sort. A professional is available for hire if you’d like instead of doing it yourself. Either way, it’s a cheap and efficient strategy for preserving your pipes and maintaining a pleasant indoor climate.
5. Throw Open the Kitchen and Bathroom Closets
The cabinet doors under the kitchen and bathroom sinks should be left open, as this is a simple (but effective) method for avoiding pipe bursts. Doing so will allow the warm air from your home to reach the pipes hidden beneath the cabinets.
If your cabinets are on an exterior wall, you should open them more frequently. Because of their proximity to the outdoors, pipes in these locations are more susceptible to freezing during the winter.
6. Weatherize Drafty Spots and Cracks
Our final advice for avoiding pipe bursts this winter is to seal any drafts in your property. When there are openings or holes between the inside and exterior of a building, cold air can seep in and freeze the soil surrounding your pipes, causing them to explode.
The good news is that you can easily repair these cracks. The first step is to do a quick walkthrough of your home, looking for drafty areas like window and door frames, electrical wiring, and dryer vents. Once you’ve located the drafts, you can cover them with insulation or caulk.
The Right Way to Let a Water Faucet Drip in the Cold
Keeping a faucet dripping can prevent frozen pipes and the associated water damage that can cost thousands of dollars. Water dripping through the pipes may not always avoid freezing, but it does reduce the likelihood of ice formation.
Your pipes are less prone to burst from freezing because of the reduced pressure inside them. What temperature water should be used for dripping faucets is discussed below.
1. Select Which Sinks Should Drip
A faucet farthest from the water source should drip first, but it’s safer to be safe and drip faucets everywhere. Drip the sink faucet in the bathroom and the kitchen. The risk of frozen and broken pipes is mitigated by allowing a trickle of water to flow from multiple faucets.
Dripping these faucets might be an option:
- The location of the sink is furthest from the house’s water supply.
- A water source that connects to uncovered plumbing, as that found in an attic or basement.
- A sink fixture is designed to be installed on pipes in uninsulated external walls.
- In-room water-dripping fixtures, such as sink faucets or shower heads.
Your monthly water bill will increase by less than a dollar since you’re running a drip—the thousands of dollars you will save on water damage repairs more than covers this small upfront investment. A leaky pipe can flood your house with gallons of water.
2. Start a Trickle of Ice-Cold Water
To what temperature would you like the water to drip? Start a slow, steady drip by turning on the cold water and holding the handle down for about three seconds. A cold drip is advised since a different pipe supplies hot water and is less likely to freeze.
Dripping the hot and cold water lines can avoid freezing if both are exposed or the power to your water heater goes out.
3. Until Temperatures Rise Above Freezing, Keep the Drip Running.
Leave your faucet dripping until temperatures are consistently above 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The continual drip helps keep your pipes safe during cold temperatures and the thawing of any frozen pipes.
When the ice thaws, your water has a place to go, rather than bursting your pipes due to pent-up pressure.
4. Determine Whether Your Pipes Have Frozen
Frozen pipes can occur even if a drip is left on during freezing weather. Keep an eye out for telltale indications of frozen pipes so you can take preventative measures and save money.
Turn off the main water valve and call a plumber immediately if you suspect frozen pipes. Because of the expansion of frozen water, frozen pipes almost always burst.
Turning off the water before the plumber arrives will prevent further damage from water leaks. Before turning on the water again, a plumber will check for leaks and fix any damaged pipes. Hiring a plumber is usually cheaper than repairing the damage water causes.
When traveling for an extended time during the winter, it may be a good idea to turn off the water supply and drain the pipes. Without leaving a drip on, you can prevent pipes from freezing and bursting while you’re away.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. To Drip My Faucets, Should I Hire a Plumber?
Dripping faucets is a simple DIY project in five minutes or less, so there’s no need to call a plumber.
Leave the drip on, turn off the water supply at the main shut-off valve, and call a plumber if your pipes have frozen or burst.
Avoiding costly water damage from flooding is one of the main benefits of having a plumber evaluate and repair your pipes.
2. When Should I Stop Dripping Water?
When the temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit for over three hours or the electricity goes out in winter, you should leave the water dripping.
Wait to stop the trickle until you’ve checked for frozen pipes and the temperature has stayed above 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Moving water through the pipes reduces the likelihood of ice buildup, reducing the risk of pipe bursts. Dripping water releases pressure, avoiding pipe bursts and water damage.
3. What’s the Deal With Frozen Pipes?
Frozen pipes don’t necessarily break open. It is normal during the winter, but it can lead to pipe bursts if the pipe itself is damaged or if the water has been frozen for too long and then thaws.
4. Where Can I Look for a Water Pipe That Has Frozen?
By tracing the location of the non-functioning faucets, you can identify the frozen pipe causing the problem. The frozen pipe is near the main line if no sinks are operating.
5. What Is the Freezing Point of the Pipes?
When the temperature outside dips below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, water in the pipes of a house can begin to freeze. If temperatures drop any lower, even moving water will freeze.
Even though it is recommended to leave a faucet leaking to avoid frozen pipes, moving water can still freeze, especially at low speeds.