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why do water pipes sometimes burst in the winter

Bursting water pipes are a major concern when winter temperatures drop below freezing. But why do frozen pipes burst? Perhaps surprisingly, freezing pipes don t burst because of
expanding in place. Instead, it has to do with pressure inside the pipes. When water freezes, its molecules crystalize into an open hexagonal form, which takes up more space than when the molecules are in their liquid form that is, the expand as they freeze. As the ice expands, it pushes water toward the closed faucet. This causes an immense amount of water pressure to build between the ice blockage and the faucet eventually, the pipe ruptures under the pressure, usually at a spot where there s little or no ice. The pipe areas upstream of the ice clog aren t typically in danger of bursting because the pressure isn t great enough.

In this case, the water isn t blocked, and can always retreat back to its source. Pipes that are the most at risk of bursting are those located outside of building insulation, or those in unheated interior areas, including basements, attics and crawl spaces. Heating or insulating these vulnerable pipes with fiberglass or foam sleeves can help prevent them from bursting. Additionally, keeping the facet open and letting the water run even at just a trickle will help prevent the water pressure from building to dangerous levels. Follow Joseph Castro on Twitter. Follow us @livescience, Facebook Google+. The damages, expenses and the messes that can be caused from experience, and Indianapolis plumbing companies start dealing with the implications of cold weather as soon as the temperatures begin to drop.

Many customers ask us, Why did this happen?! The basic answer is that the water coming in to the house from outside is much colder than it was during the summer months. This colder water causes your pipes to contract and this contraction often causes leaks from areas of the pipe that had weakened over time. There are no practical ways of heating up the temperature of the ground around your home, so stopping the contraction caused by the cold water is not something you can control. Our advice is to be mindful of your plumbing system as the temperatures change and check to see if you have any leaks. While we can t stop the leaks caused by temperature drops, there are things you can do to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. Here are some helpful hints. As always, feel free to contact us here at Hope Plumbing if you have any questions or concerns. 1.

If it is extremely cold outside, keep one or two faucets running slowly at all times. Water moving through the system should prevent the line from freezing. 2. Often times, the pipes that freeze are located near an outside wall or a window, so be sure to direct warm air to any colder areas of your home. (Start in your basement and look for any pipes near the exterior of the home. ) 3. If your kitchen sink is on an outside wall (it usually is), be sure to leave cabinet doors open to allow warm air into the cabinet. Your kitchen faucet is usually a good faucet to leave on during extremely cold weather. 4. Be sure to disconnect your hose from the outside faucet. If you leave your hose connected, water is not able to drain out of your hose bib and will likely freeze and break the device. 5.

There is a product called heat tape that can be installed and will warm pipes as needed during cold weather. While you could do this yourself, you may want to consult with an Indianapolis plumber to learn some best practices. 6. Seal leaks that allow cold air into your home where pipes are located. Look for air leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents, and pipes. Use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out. With severe cold, even a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze. 7. Prevent temperatures from dropping below 32 degrees in any areas of your home where water lines are located. 8. If you still have concerns about your system, call a licensed plumber and ask them to come to your home and advise you about how to prevent pipes from freezing.

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