You get home and see that one of your family members has left the faucet dripping. Classic moment of carelessness, right?
Wait! If it’s in the middle of winter, your family member might actually be doing something quite responsible. Believe it or not, sometimes a dripping faucet can save you a lot of grief.
That’s because this super-low-tech method is a great way to prevent your pipes from freezing in the cold weather. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know.
If you’ve never heard of the advice to let your faucets drip before, you might be wondering whether you’ve missed out on a standard life lesson. But this depends a lot on where you live.
Some cities and regions have notoriously cold winters, and protections against chilly temperatures are part of standard wisdom. But if you live in a warmer region, you may never have heard of these pieces of advice. That doesn’t mean they don’t apply to you, though.
Even sunny climates experience cold snaps from time to time. And if you’re not prepared, you might run into some major problems.
Frozen Pipe Annoyances
When the temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, you should consider taking precautions to protect your pipes. Otherwise, they can freeze and leave you unable to shower, cook, and brush your teeth with ease (among many other things).
Pipes don’t have to freeze all the way to become a nuisance. Once the process begins, you might encounter trouble with your water temperature as more water flows from your hot water source than your cold water source. Or you might encounter a general problem with the amount of water you can get from your faucets.
Dangers of Frozen Pipes
One of the more severe reasons to protect your pipes from freezing is that a frozen pipe can burst.
This is because when pipes freeze, they create a buildup of pressure in the water flow. When water turns to ice, it expands and stays put. This can create a blockage in the pipe, increasing the water’s pressure flowing around that ice.
Sometimes this pressure is too much for the pipes to handle, and the pipe bursts open. This can require expensive repairs from the pipe itself and any surrounding areas that have suffered water damage.
For example, you might need to redo your floors or fix large parts of a wall if there’s been a good deal of water damage – and especially if it’s already in a dark or damp area like the basement, you might have to worry about mold as well. Trust us. This is an issue you should consider and prevent sooner rather than later.
Leaving Your Faucet Dripping
A water drip can help avoid frozen pipes because moving water freezes less quickly than standing water. If the water in your pipes moves continuously (even from a tiny drip), this can prevent it from freezing.
The water does not need to be a warm temperature for this to work. The idea behind this method is not to melt already-frozen ice but to stop the water from freezing in the first place. And because the cold and hot water in your house is likely separated, it’s the cold water plumbing you need to worry about.
If you have a good sense of the plumbing system in your home, you can even be strategic about which faucets you let drip. And if you don’t, a good plumber should be able to clue you in.
The pipes you should be most concerned about are cold water pipes that run close to the exterior of your home. And if you can identify the faucet that is farthest along a cold water pipe’s pathway, this would be a good one to let drip. This way, you can keep the water moving along the longest possible length of the pipe.
An Official Recommendation
This might seem like an informal recommendation passed down through generations, and that is partly true. But leaving your faucet dripping is also something that experts (including us) recommend!
For example, the Red Cross lists a cold water drip as one thing you can do to prevent frozen pipes. The organization also recommends leaving your thermostat no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit and opening cabinet doors to expose part of your plumbing to the warm air in a room.
Leaving a water drip running can feel a bit strange, especially if you’re used to fixing drips to conserve water. Well, there is a way to prevent your pipes from freezing while also being mindful of water waste.
If you’d like to save water, you can place a container in your sink, tub, or wherever else your faucets are dripping. You can then use this water to take care of your plants or do various chores without getting more from the tap.
This is an excellent option for people who live in an area with a water shortage, who want to save on their water bill or want to live a little greener.
Leaving a faucet dripping during cold weather is an easy way to prevent frozen and burst pipes. And it doesn’t even have to lead to waste! So next time you see the temperatures dip, go ahead and leave a little trickle going for safety’s sake.
And if you want one of our experts to take a look, just reach out! We’d love to see what we can do for you and your home.