Homeowners everywhere must concern themselves with a wide variety of potential accidents that could damage their property, not least amongst them the possibility that their pipes could freeze and explode.
As the weather gets colder and colder, pipes have a tendency to freeze and eventually burst, but this eventuality can be avoided with prudent maintenance.
Nevertheless, many homeowners suffer from burst pipes precisely because they don’t know what to look out for or how to respond to early signs of pipes freezing.
How can you ensure your home doesn’t suffer from winter weather?
Here’s an exploration of how to keep your pipes from exploding this winter, and what else to know if you want to maintain the function and value of your property.
1. Why Pipes Burst
Why do pipes freeze in the winter, anyway?
The simple answer is that water expands as it freezes. The complicated answer is that as water nears its freezing point, it slowly but surely begins to expand, which in turns increases the overall level of pressure in a pipe system.
If too much water begins to freeze, the pressure in the pipes keepings going up, and eventually it becomes too much for the pipe material to contain.
Bursting under the immense pressure from within, these pipes can then cause immense damage to your property, especially if they continue to leak water after exploding.
Knowing why cold weather imperils pipes is an important part of being a responsible homeowner. This isn’t just a problem you’ll have to deal with once or twice – it’s a recurring issue that could permanently plague your home and potentially cost you huge sums of money.
After all, replacing your pipes isn’t easy, as it may entail ripping up your walls, floorboards, or other elements of your house which are also in and of themselves quite expensive.
Ice generally has a larger volume than water, so even a small amount of water, when frozen, can translate into enough ice to increase the pressure in your pipes to the point where they burst.
Comically, pipes split longitudinally for the same reason that sausages do; the principle of hoop stress is greater than that of longitudinal stress, but you don’t have to concern yourself with this unless you like engineering.
For homeowners, the most important piece of information is that your frozen pipes will eventually become too pressurized, burst, and potentially cost you thousands of dollars in expensive repairs.
2. Avoiding Burst Pipes
How can you avoid burst pipes, anyway?
It’s imperative to not only memorize these strategies but also to inform the other members of your household, as even one person’s negligence can eventually add up to a burst pipe that costs everybody their comfort and security.
One of the most essential tips you should remember is that turning on the faucet will help pipes avoid freezing. You don’t have to turn the faucet on heavily; a few drips here and there is enough to keep the water inside of the pipes moving.
Once it’s moving within the pipe, the water is substantially less likely to freeze, which will in turn mitigate the possibility that pressure levels rise and the pipe ruptures.
Don’t forget your outside faucets, either; if you’re a homeowner with a lovely garden that relies upon a hose, you probably haven’t been giving it much thought lately, given the winter weather.
That house faucet should be turned on to a slight drip, however, as this could prevent your outside pipes (or some inside of your home) from bursting. In other words, don’t think you should only worry about those pipes inside of your house.
Other remedies like inflatable pipe plugs should also be considered, especially if you’re living in an area particularly prone to inclement and freezing weather that could threaten your pipes.
You should also open your cabinet doors. This may sound peculiar, but it’s actually very important: by opening your cabinet doors, you’ll be allowing the warm air in your house to better circulate throughout the entire house (including, now, the inside of the cabinets).
Cabinet doors in your kitchen or bathroom (like those below the sink) could be blocking that warm air from circulating and touching the pipes within those cabinets.
By opening your cabinet doors, you’ll allow the warm air to circulate against the pipes, which will warm them up and ensure that no terrifying freezing has to occur.
There are also emergency measures to consider for when you’re positive your pipes are about to freeze.
3. When things get tough
What are some pipe-warming strategies that you can rely upon when things get tough? Wrapping a warm, damp rag around your pipes is one option, though it’s not particularly efficient.
That’s why you may want to break out a hairdryer or a similar device that emits hot air quickly, as this can be applied directly to the pipes in order to warm them up.
Be careful, however, as this can end up using a lot of electricity and generating a potential fire hazard if you leave them on without adult supervision. Nevertheless, it’s likely far more affordable than repairing your pipes if they burst.
Learn how to spot freezing pipes before they burst before trying this remedy. You should also know that when your pipes are frozen, you need to shut the water off as soon as possible; if your pipes burst and the water is still on, the now-destroyed pipes could flood sections of your house.
Know that exploding pipes are a serious problem that cost countless homeowners huge sums of money every winter. By learning how to spot pipes before they freeze, you can avoid this tragedy.
Sometimes, however, you need to get proactive. Be sure to open your cabinets, keep your faucets dripping, and shut your water off at the first sign of a pipe rupturing.
Armed with this information, you and your loved ones can avoid the disruptive and costly tragedy of having a pipe explode over the winter.