Cold weather is fast approaching for many people if it hasn’t already arrived. With the icy cold temperatures sweeping in, it’s time to start thinking of the plumbing throughout your home. Frozen pipes quickly become an absolute nightmare, and if left unchecked, they can wreak havoc throughout your home.
Allowing a few of your faucets to drip can help mitigate the issues sub-freezing temperatures can cause. For a quick overview of dripping faucets in chilly weather, continue reading.
Will Pipes Freeze At 32 Degrees Fahrenheit?
Once the temperature reaches freezing (or 32 degrees Fahrenheit), it’s possible the plumbing in and around your home may freeze. However, it’ll take a while for the pipes to freeze at this temperature, so if the forecast predicts a brief period at 32 degrees, the pipes might not freeze.
The longer the temperature remains at or below freezing, the higher the chances of frozen pipes. Usually, it takes approximately six hours of freezing or sub-freezing temperatures for pipes to freeze and potentially burst.
When Should I Let My Faucets Drip?
As cold weather swirls into your area, it’s a good idea to allow a few of your faucets to drip. During the winter months, when temperatures are around 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, water pipes throughout your home may be susceptible to temperatures well below freezing.
Pipes installed in outdoor areas or spaces that mimic the outdoor temperatures (like your garage) are especially at risk of freezing.
When pipes freeze, water cannot flow through them, thus restricting your ability to take a shower or wash clothes and dishes. On top of the inconveniences that accompany a lack of water, frozen pipes are prone to bursting.
Since water freezes as it expands, the pipes may not be able to handle the additional pressure. Burst pipes can lead to a many issues, such as flooding, which will present related problems as well as water damage affecting your home.
You can encourage movement through the pipes by allowing your faucets to drip when the temperature drops to sub-freezing levels. Although a few drops of water don’t seem like a lot, the minute movement caused by dripping pipes helps prevent them from freezing.
Do I Need To Let All My Faucets Drip?
To determine which faucets you should leave dripping, consider the location of the pipes connected to the faucet. You don’t necessarily need to leave all of your faucets dripping during cold weather.
For example, if a pipe branches directly from the hot water tank to a sink, you probably don’t need to drip this sink, as it isn’t exposed to cold weather. Now, let’s say you have a pipe that runs around the perimeter of your house and is directly exposed to the cold. You should allow the faucet correlated to this pipe to drip.
With that said, it is usually best to drip the faucet that is furthest away from the origin of the pipe. If you were to drip a single faucet along the pipe, especially those located closer to the pipe’s origin, the following sections of pipes and connected faucets could still potentially freeze.
So, by dripping a faucet that is furthest away from the water source, you will ensure that water moves throughout the entire pipe from one end to another.
Is There An Alternative To Dripping My Faucets?
Leaving the faucet to drip constantly throughout the winter can seem wasteful for some folks. Luckily, there are a few alternatives to leaving your faucets slightly on. Of course, these methods may only sometimes be effective in preventing the pipes from freezing.
That said, you can always give these options a go:
- Keep the cabinet doors under sinks along the exterior of your home open to ensure warm air can access the pipes in that area.
- Insulate outdoor pipes with microwaved blankets or rice-filled socks. If the pipes are already frozen, be careful with this method.
How Much Should I Drip My Faucet To Prevent Freezing?
That troublesome leaky faucet that won’t stop the aggravating drip may actually help you throughout the winter. However, we still recommend fixing the leak.
If you don’t have an already-leaky faucet, how fast should you drip faucets? About 5 to 10 drops per minute will do the trick, so no need to worry about excessive water waste. Ensure that the faucet is dripping about five times per minute at the least to promote functioning pipes and limit the chances of a frozen headache.
If you found a pipe that has burst, here is a quick fix that you can install yourself: Rothenberger Kibosh Pipe Repair Tool.
6 Tips To Prevent Burst Pipes In Sub-Freezing Temperatures
Preventing frozen and burst pipes in the wintertime can seem like an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be. As long as you’re proactive with the plumbing in your home, you should be just fine! Here are a few tips to prevent burst pipes in icy temperatures:
- Insulate plumbing on exposed pipes throughout unheated areas of the house (crawl space, garage, etc.) or outside.
- Leave one or more faucets dripping throughout sub-freezing temperatures. Remember to shut them off when the temperature rises again!
- Keep cabinet doors under faucets along the exterior walls open to allow airflow through them. This will help warm air enter the space instead of trapping cool air.
- Use proper safety measures to prevent your washing machine, water softener, and other appliances from freezing. Generally, this involves turning off the water to the appliance and draining the water (if it holds water).
- Regularly check on plumbing in unheated areas of your home for signs of freezing.
- If you go out of town for a while, be sure to keep the thermostat set no lower than 58 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, either turn off the water to your house or keep a faucet dripping while you’re gone. Ideally, see if a friend or family member is willing to stop by your home every few days to check for signs of frozen pipes.
How Much Does It Cost To Allow A Faucet To Drip?
Although water costs vary based on location, dripping a faucet usually doesn’t cost much. If you live in an area where water costs are high, you’ll run into higher costs than someone who lives in an area where water costs are low or cost-free.
On average, leaky faucets cost an average of $20 per year. If you allow your faucets to drip for the three coldest months of the year, then it’ll cost you even less, about $5 per year. These estimates are based on a faucet with a severe faucet leak, so chances are your leaky faucet will cost you even less.
Additionally, considering that allowing your faucet to drip is helping to prevent bursting pipes and a flooded home, the costs are pitiful in comparison. The national average for burst pipe repair sits at about $500. And that estimate is on pipes requiring moderate repair. If the damage is substantial, you could be facing repair costs of up to $2,000.
Should I Drip The Cold Water Faucet Only?
You may be wondering what temperature you should drip the faucets at. Contrary to popular belief, both cold water and hot water pipes are highly susceptible to freezing. Cold water pipes need to be dripped, but so do the hot water pipes. In sub-zero temperatures, hot water pipes cool down rapidly and are at substantial risk of freezing.
At night, the temperature typically drops, even more, increasing the chances of freezing. So, allow both the cold water faucet and the hot water faucet to drip slightly, thus preventing freezing of cold and hot water pipes. If you choose to drip one or the other, you run the risk of the other freezing.
What About Outdoor Faucets?
Outdoor faucets also need to be dripped in addition to your indoor faucets. Outdoor spigots, like those you connect your garden hose to, and faucets are at a high risk of freezing, given their direct exposure to cold temperatures, so remember to allow them to drip.
Faucets located outdoors tend to connect to pipes running along the outside of your home, which means they are exposed to much chillier temperatures than your interior faucets. For this reason, it is imperative to allow your outdoor faucets to drip, too, especially considering many of them are fed by pipes from inside your home.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Will My Insurance Company Cover Repairs For Frozen Pipes?
Although many insurance companies cover the damage associated with frozen plumbing, they rarely cover the actual repair of the pipes. They’ll cover water damage to surrounding areas and other things that may have sustained damage due to the accident, but the cost of repairing the plumbing is on you.
How Much Does It Cost To Repair Frozen Or Burst Pipes?
Repairing plumbing that bursts due to freezing temperatures can be extremely pricey. In extreme cases where most of your plumbing system is affected, you could pay tens of thousands of dollars for repair.
However, if you catch the problem quickly enough and it’s isolated to a small section of pipe, the costs usually fall under $3,000. Of course, the exact cost of the repair may be higher or lower depending on the type of pipe, its location, and the extent of the damage.