Frozen Water Pipes

By Charles B. Sullivan, Senior Consultant

Be careful of that unexpected cold snap or the impending deep freeze.  Frozen water pipes are a serious threat during the cold winter weather months. Freezing water in a pipe expands and can bring to bear pressures in excess of 2,000 pounds per square inch.  Pressures in this range are enough to burst/rupture almost any pipe that is filled with water that provides no place for the ice to expand.

frozen-pipeA burst pipe can discharge hundreds of gallons of water per hour, equating to large dollar water loss claims due to extensive water damage.  This can be a bitter pill to swallow when considering how easy it is to prevent frozen water pipes.

Risky Locations

Pipes susceptible to freezing when located in areas such as:

  • Exterior walls
  • Under a sink in the proximity of an exterior wall
  • Unheated crawlspaces
  • Mechanical rooms with open louvers exposing piping to outside temperatures

Preventing Frozen Pipes

These are a few ideas that can assist with preventing frozen pipes:

  • Let the interior faucet drip slightly, dripping water will assist with keeping water in the pipe from freezing in most instances.
  • Leave cabinet doors under sinks open and let room air circulate into the area.
  • Place a small portable heater near or in proximity of piping that may be prone to freezing.
  • Install electrical heat trace tape on piping that may be prone to freezing conditions.
  • Have heaters installed in crawl spaces, garages, storage areas, and other areas with exposed water piping. Maintaining these areas at 40ºF will help prevent most frozen pipes.
  • Remove garden hoses from exterior sill cocks/hose bibbs.  Removing any hoses and turning off the water supply, where possible, will assist with averting the major risk of water damage done by a burst frozen piping located on exterior walls.
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