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

Frozen-Pipe

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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