If you've ever experienced frozen and burst water pipes, you already know what a mess it can make in your home in the middle of winter. You probably also think you know how to prevent it in the future. You may be surprised to learn that some of what you thought you knew isn't entirely true. Check out these myths about freezing water pipes to see how you measure up in your plumbing knowledge and gain some insight for preventing freezing pipes.
#1 Living in a cold region puts you are the greatest risk of frozen pipes.
Surprisingly, this isn't so. Because those who live in northern climates are much more aware of the dangers of freezing pipes, they tend to protect their pipes from the conditions that cause freezing. It's those who live in southern climates who only get freezing weather a few times a year that are at the most risk. Those in southern climates are more likely to run water pipes under the home or in exposed areas. When cold weather strikes, the pipes have no protection and are likely to freeze and risk bursting.
#2 Pipes don't freeze unless it is below zero for several nights.
While this may be the old standard for those who live in northern climates, it really isn't accurate for all locations. According to the Weather Channel, un-insulated pipes, or those exposed to the elements, begin to freeze at 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Pipes can freeze at higher temperatures, but when temperatures drop below 20 degrees, plumbers begin getting calls to repair broken pipes in southern states.
#3 Expanding ice causes the pipe to burst.
As a good science student, you are probably aware that water expands when it freezes. This leads to the assumption that the expansion is what causes broken pipes. This is only partially true. As the water freezes and takes up more room in the pipe, the water pressure between the ice clog and the faucet increases. It is the increased water pressure between the clog and the faucet that bursts the pipe. The break in the pipe does not occur at the site of the ice clog, but along the path between the clog and the faucet, says 1-800 water Damage.
#4 A dripping faucet prevents the pipes from freezing.
Again this is only partially true. While letting the faucet drip can slow the formation of ice in the pipe, that's not the purpose of letting the faucet drip, says the Weather Channel. Keeping the faucet open reduces the air pressure in the pipe if it does freeze. This means that even if your pipes freeze, a dripping faucet may prevent the cost and expense of repairing burst pipes.
#5 Only the actual temperature matters, because windchill only affects living things.
At some point in your education, some well-meaning teacher probably convinced you that the windchill only affects living beings. While it's true that the windchill makes you feel colder as it whisks away the heat from your body, pipes react in the same way. A cold draft or gusty wind whisks away the heat from the pipes, lowering the temperature of the water inside. This increases the likelihood that pipes will freeze. So the next time you listen to the weather report for a chilly night, pay attention to the windchill factor, too.
#6 Insulating pipes keeps the cold air out.
While it's true that insulating your pipes lowers the risk of them freezing, it may not be for the reasons you assume. Freezing occurs when the heat in the water is transferred to the cold air, which means that preventing the transfer of heat will prevent freezing. Pipe insulation does just that. It keeps the heat in the water from transferring to the colder surrounding air. While the affect is the same, pipe insulation prevents freezing by keeping heat in, not by keeping the cold out.
Understanding why your pipes freeze and what happens when they do, puts you in the position to avoid frozen and burst pipes in your home.