When to Leave Faucets Dripping

If your faucets don’t work in the winter and you know you paid your water bill, it might be time to drip your faucets. When temperatures fall below 20℉ (-6℃), the risk of frozen pipes goes up.

To go without running water is annoying at best, but the real trouble starts when the ice starts to melt. Worst case scenario is a broken water pipe and serious water damage. How much does it cost when you bust a pipe?

Well, it can cost you anywhere from $200–$5,000 or more to fix a broken plumbing system. On top of that, water damage can ruin the inside of your home.

Even if your homeowner’s insurance covers the cost of repairing a busted pipe, you won’t have running water and may be temporarily displaced until repairs are finished. Now you might get a nice hotel at the expense of your premiums and rates.

While it’s best to do this before the temperatures reach freezing, dripping your pipes can fix the problem in most cases. Check out these tips and tricks to avoid damaging your pipes in the winter.

Will Pipes Freeze At 32 Degrees?

Have you ever turned on your garden hose, and a tube of ice shot out? Well, pipes freeze for the same reason. 32℉ is both the freezing point and melting point of water. Your pipes can freeze at this temperature, but it’s more likely that they won’t. Temperatures under 20℉ are in the danger zone.

And subzero temperatures are like kryptonite to the interior pipes of your home. The water expands as it turns into ice, putting stress on the pipes. As the water pressure builds, the chances of a pipe bursting will increase.

The diameter and material that the pipe is made out of can affect the freezing rate. Smaller pipes are more prone to freezing than relatively larger pipes. Some materials, like PVC, are more freeze-proof than others. For example, copper will freeze much faster.

If the temperature drops quickly, those are the first two things you should check:

  1. Insulation: poor insulation may be the root of the problem. Check your home for air leaks. Weatherstripping, double-paned windows, and caulking are a few ways to increase insulation and keep the heat inside. Pay attention to attics, garages, crawl spaces.
  2. Thermostat: If the thermostat is too low, the chances of frozen pipes are high. We recommend keeping your thermostat over 55℉ to prevent freezing.

If all your faucets aren’t working, check the mainline. You can often protect your pipes by shutting off one of the water lines in your house (turning valve to off position).

How Much Drip Do I Need to Keep the Pipes From Freezing? 

Do I need to drip all my faucets?

All you need is a thin stream of water to melt the ice and lower the water pressure. You should drip at least one of your faucets and keep it running for at least 12 hours. One should be enough because the water will flow throughout the whole house.

According to The USGS (U.S. Geological Survey), a faucet that drips 60 drops per minute equals 5 gallons of water in a day. 5 gallons of water a day comes out to around $2 a day. I’ll take that any day over the cost of repairs, restoration, and cleanup.

But at what temperature should you run water to keep pipes from freezing? Do you drip hot or cold water when it’s below freezing? Well, the water doesn’t have to be hot long as it’s over 20℉; you should be good. Over 32℉ is even better.

Protect Your Pipes!

Broken Pipe

Here are some tips on ways to winterize your house and prevent those pipes from bursting.

Before freezing weather arrives: If you know that the overnight temperature is predicted to drop to 28 degrees or below, leave a faucet dripping slowly during the night to keep your pipes flowing.

During snow, ice, and sub-freezing temperatures: When you experience these extreme conditions, drip those faucets whose pipes border an outside wall or are in an unheated area. Attics, utility rooms, basements, laundry rooms, and garages sinks are likely candidates for dripping water.

Turn up the thermostat if you are going away for an extended period of time. Make sure that your thermostat is over 55℉.

Seal up cracks and air gaps. Look for areas inside and outside of your house that have insufficient insulation. Cover the vents on the exterior of your home.

Apply heating tape to your pipes. Also known as electrical tape, the heating tape can help keep your pipes insulated.

Add more insulation. Check out windows, doors, walls, etc., for leaks and replace the weather stripping. Many times the insulation gets worn to the point that it isn’t effective. Inspect all the interior walls to make sure they have insulation.

Remove garden hoses. Garen hoses freeze pretty easily.  Also, open all your cabinet doors to let warm into the plumbing system.