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Does A Dripping Faucet Really Prevent Frozen Pipes?

Let a faucet drip when temperatures drop.

Posted 14:39 December 25, 2022
Last Updated 14:39 December 25, 2022

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You've probably heard the tale. When overnight temperatures plummet below freezing, leave a single faucet dripping a little hot water overnight. This will help circulate hot water through your pipes, and keep them from freezing. But does it work?

Burst pipes are one of the most common causes of homeowner property damage during a bout of freezing temperatures. Las Vegas is in a zone where most of the time it doesn't freeze, so our homes aren't built well against freezing. But when it does freeze overnight, it can wreak havoc with our pipes.

But does one dripping faucet really save the day (or the night)? If it's the right one. The dripping faucet should be as far away from the incoming water source (your hot water heater) as possible. You want water to flow through the entire length of the system. If you aren't sure where your incoming water source is located, setting several faucets to drip will help. But your best bet is to locate your hot water heater and go from there.

A common misconception is that a dripping faucet prevents water from freezing because it keeps water in motion. While this helps, the truth is that at extreme temperatures water can freeze even while flowing. The real reason a dripping faucet helps prevent pipes from bursting is the constant drip relieves pressure that is building up in the pipes between the ice blockage and the faucet. This helps to prevent pipes from bursting when the pipes begin to thaw.

Pipe joints are the most vulnerable, but water — which expands as it freezes — can stress metal or plastic pipes at almost any point in the pipeline. Pipes become damaged during a freeze, but don't begin to wreak havoc until they start to thaw. The combined pressures of the expanding and shrinking and the increasing water pressure behind causes pipes to leak and burst. This is why you'll always want to leave a faucet on if a pipe is frozen completely, even if nothing is coming out of the tap. When the ice starts to thaw, the water needs somewhere to go in order to relieve pent-up pressure.

When overnight temperatures are forecast below 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 degrees Celsius), it's time to let at least one faucet drip. Pay close attention to water pipes that are in exterior walls, attics, garages, basements or crawl spaces because temperatures in these spaces are the most exposed. Opening up kitchen and bathroom cabinets can also help interior heat reach pipes that are on the verge of freezing.

If you do end up with burst pipes, shut off the water main immediately to limit damage to the rest of your home. Contact the professional plumbers here at All Trades for a free consultation. We service Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City, and most parts of Clark County Nevada. We offer emergency and same day service in most cases.

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