News | March 17, 2014

How To Keep Water Pipes From Freezing

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In the U.S. during winter, much of the U.S. is gripped with freezing temperatures. In fact, though rare, there are some instances where every single state in the country witnesses temperatures below freezing simultaneously.

While bitter cold isn't unusual in the winter, the extent and severity is. According to the Insurance Information Institute, just behind hurricanes and tornadoes, winter weather is consistently one of the main causes of insured losses each year.

"Winter storm claims, including those associated with freezing and ice damage, accounted for 7.1 percent of all insured catastrophe losses between 1993 and 2012, placing it third behind hurricanes and tropical storms (40 percent) and tornadoes (36 percent) as the costliest natural disasters," said Dr. Robert Hartwig, president of the III.

Freezing is perhaps the biggest issue for municipalities when it comes to water management. Because water expands when it freezes, this poses a severe problem for the pipes that contain it, as there's the potential that they could explode.

However, there are many ways in which to avoid this problem, according to experts on the topic. The following tips should serve as a way to effectively manage the water system.

Turn the faucet on
Perhaps the easiest solution is to leave the faucets running when the temperatures get considerably cold. By turning the faucet on and letting the water trickle out, air circulates in the pipes. This activity reduces the chances the water pipes will freeze. Though there isn't any one opinion about how cold it has to get before this should be done, a good rule of thumb is if they get into the teens or single-digits.

Another issue that increases the risk of water pipes freezing is if they're not insulated. As noted by the Weather Channel, researchers from the University of Illinois performed field tests to see how residential water systems would fare for those pipes that were uninsulated. They found that in portions of the house where pipes were bare - such as the attic or basement - the onset of freezing occurred when temperatures reached 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

If unsure of how to best insulate water pipes, it's a good idea to speak with a professional plumber or licensed contractor.

Turning the heat up when going away
In order to escape the cold temperatures, many people will head South in order to bask in the warmth. But if the cold snap remains in place, the water pipes are still at risk of freezing if the appropriate measures haven't been put in place.

In these instances, it's recommended that thermostats be adjusted so that a constant level of warmth can be maintained. Additionally, it may be worthwhile to drain the system. The Weather Channel noted that when there's no water in the pipes, that naturally eliminates the risk of the water freezing because there's nothing inside them.

SOURCE: Master Meter, Inc.