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Dripping Your Faucets in Winter? What You May Be Doing Wrong!


It’s that frigid time of year again, when pipes shudder and whispers of burst disasters circulate. We dutifully turn on the cold-water drip, a soothing rhythm against the winter’s icy onslaught. But hold on! Are you neglecting your hot water, leaving it vulnerable to a frosty fate? And, are you sure you’re dripping enough faucets?

Many fall into the trap of assuming only cold pipes need winter TLC. In reality, ignoring your hot water is a recipe for plumbing peril. While cold water freezes at 32°F (0°C), hot water, depending on its temperature, can remain liquid even at significantly lower temperatures. However, this static state becomes a breeding ground for trouble. Ice crystals start forming, expanding within the pipes, and boom! You’re facing a geyser of hot (and expensive) chaos.

Don’t forget, it’s not just about hot vs. cold! The location of your pipes matters too.

  • Always drip at least one faucet, ideally the furthest from your water main, when temperatures dip below freezing (32°F or 0°C). Remember, even the slightest trickle can keep water moving and prevent ice crystals from forming.
  • If pipes are exposed or particularly vulnerable, consider dripping additional faucets, especially those on exterior walls or in unheated areas.
  • For sub-zero temperatures (below 14°F or -10°C), a thin but constant stream of water is your best defense. Don’t let the pipes become stagnant even with the extra chill.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

  • Around 250,000 US homes suffer from burst pipes annually, with winter being the prime culprit.
  • A significant portion of these bursts are due to neglected hot water pipes or insufficient dripping.

Hot Leaks vs. Cold Leaks: Double the Trouble

While both leaks cause headaches, hot water leaks present a unique set of challenges:

  • Mold Growth: Hot, humid environments are a haven for mold, which can lead to respiratory problems and expensive remediation.
  • Warped Materials: Hot water can quickly damage wood, drywall, and other building materials, leading to extensive repairs.

Bonus Tips for Winter Plumbing Protection

  1. Insulate exposed pipes: Add warmth with pipe sleeves or foam wrap, especially those near exterior walls or crawl spaces.
  2. Seal air leaks: Check for drafts around plumbing entry points and seal them to prevent cold air from reaching pipes.
  3. Open cabinet doors: Allow warm air to circulate around pipes located in cabinets or under sinks.
  4. Disconnect and drain outdoor hoses: This eliminates the risk of water freezing and bursting inside the hose or faucet.
  5. Consider a smart thermostat: Program it to automatically lower the heat in unoccupied rooms, reducing the risk of pipes freezing in unused spaces.

Remember, prevention is key!

By embracing the hot-and-cold drip dance, dripping strategically throughout your home, and implementing these bonus tips, you can ensure your pipes waltz through winter without a frosty misstep. Oh, and one more thing to consider: a single burst pipe claim can lead to an average 10.5% increase in your insurance rates. So, drip smart and save big! Stay warm, stay informed, and keep your plumbing flowing freely all season long!

2024.01.18 – Johnathon Chung

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