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If a water pipe freezes and bursts inside your home, it could cause a terrible mess and leave you with a large repair bill. It’s highly likely going to be a terrible experience for you and your family given that water pipes only freeze when the outside temperature drops below zero. So, in this case, prevention is definitely better than cure!
Why do water pipes freeze?
Water pipes typically always contain at least a small amount of water. Even when the taps aren’t in use. When the outside temperature drops to freezing point or below, the water inside the pipes will freeze.
Here’s the science behind why water pipes freeze.
“Perhaps surprisingly, freezing pipes don’t burst because of ice 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 water molecules 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.” (Source)
What can you do to stop water pipes from freezing?
Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to stop water pipes from freezing. None of these suggestions will cost a lot to implement, but they could save you a ton of money and inconvenience should you suffer from a burst water pipe.
Insulate you water pipes and how water tank
The water pipes that are most likely to be the cause of a burst are the ones outside, in the loft, basement, garage and other cold areas of your home. Good quality pipe insulation is fairly cheap and easy to fit so buying and fitting insulation is definitely something you should do to prevent water pipes from freezing and bursting.
Pipe insulation typically comes in one-metre pieces and has a slit down one side, making it easy to wrap around your water pipes.
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Modern hot water tanks are fitted with hardened foam, so they don’t require any type of external insulation. On the other hand, if your water tank is older, check the quality of the insulation jacket and replace it if it looks worn out. If your older water tank doesn’t have any kind of insulation. Buy a nice new jacket for it.
Leave the heating on to prevent water pipes from freezing
When we’re home during winter, we’ll have the heating on most of the time anyway. So pipes inside the home are less likely to freeze. But, if you go away for any length of time, even overnight, leave the heating on a low setting, around 12-15 C, to warm the air inside your home to prevent pipes from freezing.
Open the loft hatch to let warm air circulate
A well-insulated loft does a great job of keeping heat in the main parts of the house. However, when the temperature drops and there’s a chance your water pipes might burst, it’s a good idea to open the loft hatch to let some of the warmer air circulate around the colder areas.
Open doors to let warm air circulate
If you have water pipes inside cupboards, cabinets or behind a closed door of an unheated room (utilities, larder, under the stairs etc), open the door to let the cold air out and some of the warmer air from the rest of your home, in.
Run your water taps to prevent water freezing
While it’s not impossible for running water to freeze, there’s less chance of it happening compared to still water. Turning your taps on and off at regular intervals is a way to prevent water pipes from freezing.