A bursting pipe can cause significant damage to your home and property. This is a relatively common phenomenon during the winter. Understanding how and why this happens can help you avoid a problem.
Why do pipes burst
If the water inside the pipes freezes during the winter and forms ice, it puts pressure on the pipes. If the pipes cannot withstand the pressure inside, they may burst. Any part of a pipe can burst, but it is more likely to happen at weak joints.
Pipes typically begin to freeze when the outside temperature is 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower for at least six hours. In less cold regions, the pipes may not be well insulated and they may start to freeze sooner.
How to deal with a frozen pipe
If a pipe is frozen, you may notice that when you turn on the faucet, the water only trickles out or does not come out at all. A frozen pipe can also be covered in ice and appear swollen.
If the hose has not burst and you can access it easily, you may be able to thaw it yourself by placing a heater nearby or using a hair dryer. Another option is to wrap electric heating tape around the pipe. You’d better call a professional if you can’t find or reach the area where the pipe is frozen.
How to keep your pipes from freezing
Pipes are more likely to freeze in unheated and poorly insulated areas, such as the attic, garage, basement, and crawl space. Pipes that are located near exterior walls or windows are exposed to cold temperatures and more likely to freeze than interior pipes. Exposing these pipes to hot air can prevent them from freezing. If a sink is located on an exterior wall, simply opening the cabinet doors may do the trick.
Insulating pipes inside your home can keep them from freezing. You can buy insulating foam strips and cut them to the appropriate size. You can also attach the downspout heating cable to pipes that may freeze.
Openings in the walls and roof can allow cold air to enter your home. Look for spaces around vents, pipes, and electrical wiring and use caulk or insulation to keep cold air out.
If the outside temperature is extremely cold, let the water run slowly from one or two taps. This will allow water to flow continuously through the plumbing system and prevent freezing.
Turn off the water faucet of an outside faucet, drain any water in the hose, and disconnect the hose. If you have a sprinkler system, drain it. If you don’t, the water can freeze and cause damage.
Set your thermostat high enough to prevent the pipes from freezing. If you will be away for a while, keep the temperature inside at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit.