Why Do Pipes Burst in the Winter – Mit Reveals the Answer

As winter approaches, people prepare for what is often a drastic change in the climate. One notable change that winter brings about is causing cracks in water pipes, and this can cause trouble for any homeowner.

Why Do Pipes Burst in the Winter? Pipes burst in the winter because water expands when it freezes. Water expands nine percent in volume when it freezes. This expansion of water builds pressure in water pipes, causing the pipes to break apart.

In a research paper by MIT, it is revealed that water acts strangely when exposed to temperature change. When it gets frozen, it expands, unlike most other materials which contract.

Why Do Pipes That Are Thicker Tend to Burst Easily?

Pipes that thicker tend to burst easily because they get weaker over time. With constant pressure from flowing water, the pipes lose turgidity. Hence, they can no longer withstand the pressure and they burst.

For every homeowner, dealing with a burst pipe can be a nightmare. If the force of flowing water is strong, it can spread within the house and cause damage to personal belongings before the plumber arrives.

Location of Water PipeThickness
pipeline from the street1 inch
supply branches 3/4 inch
pipes for various components1-2 inch
Group metal pipe on a white background close-up.

In some cases, a broken pipe cannot be worked on until all the water is let out. The quickest way to remedy a burst pipe is to turn off the water flow from the source as quickly as possible.

Metal pipes frequently burst because of corrosion that develops over time and becomes weaker when water surges against the walls. Pipe breaking can also be caused by poor installation and harsh water.

Pump issues can result in surge flow, which can damage your home’s plumbing systems by building up excessive pressure in pipelines and valves.

Pressure buildup in pipelines or poorly drained channels is a common reason for the rupturing of thick pipes. Thicker pipes experience a higher flow of water, meaning more pressure.

Also, rubber is the primary component of flexible pipe materials, and it can break more easily than many other materials. Water valves are a different case. Because they are made of metal and can bear pressure, most valves are rigid.

Freezing is another major factor that causes pipe bursts. The water in the pipes begins to freeze as soon as the temperature is below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit) for a lengthy period.

Since frozen water expands and is heavier than liquid water, the pressure it exerts on the pipe walls increases. Both lead to an increase in pipe pressure, which causes the pipes to rupture.

To avoid pipe bursting due to frozen water, warmth is needed. Pipes should be constantly open to warm air to prevent freezing.

How To Prevent Your Pipes from Bursting in Winter

You can prevent your pipes from bursting in winter by allowing water to drip slowly. Usually, there is a pressure buildup in the pipes between the ice blockage and the faucet, causing the faucet to drip constantly. Therefore, a dripping faucet can assist prevent pipes from exploding.

Close-up Of Leakage Tap With Dripping Water Drop

Water has a superior quality – it expands when it freezes. When a material contains freezing water, such as metal or plastic pipes, the expansion caused by freezing puts a great deal of pressure on the material. No matter how sturdy a container is, increasing water can cause damage. Adding insulation around piping helps. I recommend Foam King Pipe Insulation that is available on Amazon. Click here for current pricing.

ways to avoid frozen pipes

As the weather changes, pay attention to your plumbing system and check for leaks. Even though you might be powerless to totally avoid leaks brought on by temperature dips, there are steps you may follow to stop pipes from freezing and exploding.

Some of the ways to prevent pipe bursts in winter include:

  • Keep water faucets running slowly. This should prevent the pipe from freezing.
  • Strategically allow warm air into cold areas of the home, especially areas where pipes are located.
  • Always keep your cabinets open to allow warm air to flow in.
  • You can install heat tapes to keep your pipes warm.
  • Be conscious of the temperature of your home. Do not allow the temperature to fall below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Consult the services of an expert plumber for professional advice.

When your faucet doesn’t turn on or when no water comes out when you turn it on, you may have a frozen pipe. When you do, make sure there are no leaks in the pipes in various parts of your house, including the basement.

You should also check to ensure that none of your pipes has burst. Remember to be overly cautious as thawing a frozen pipe by yourself can be risky. To be safe, you should hire the services of a professional.

Where To Turn Off the Water So That Water That Is Escaping Is Stopped

Water should be turned off from the main shut-off valve. It is usually red with a handle that allows turning on and off. Common locations for the main shut-off valve are the water meter or the point where the main line enters the house. It should also be marked for quick identification.

plumber and bathroom business

Once you notice that water is escaping from a burst pipe, shut off the main water valve to the house. This will prevent any further damaging leakage. Additionally, you should put off the electricity in your house in general or in the affected area.

If the burst pipe is in a space containing electrical outlets, the breaker panel, or other electrical devices, anyone wading through the water can be electrocuted. Hence, the need to turn off the power.

how to turn off the main water supply

Avoid attempting to patch the pipe with short-term fixes. Even if you believe you can do the task, it is best to leave pipe repair to qualified plumbers because a botched DIY project can result in more pipe issues, water damage, and higher repair expenses. If you need to replace a stop valve, I suggest the Sharkbite Stop Valve that connects brass plumbing fittings. Click here to have one delivered to your home.

A professional plumber will have the skills, equipment, and expertise necessary to complete the work correctly the first time, saving you the need to attend to repeated leaks.

If the water leak is an emergency and you can’t wait for a plumber, you can purchase pipe wraps. Pipe wraps will harden to patch a hole or leak once they are correctly installed, and you can buy them at most neighborhood hardware stores.

Additionally, you should know that pipe wraps are not intended for a specific type of leak and can be applied anywhere throughout your plumbing system.

In cases where so much water already flowed out, you might need to let it out of the house. After turning off the main water valve, swiftly take out water that has spilled. This will help to protect your property from getting soaked and damaged by water.

At What Temperature Do Pipes Freeze?

Pipes freeze at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the freezing temperature of the water they contain. However, freezing happens if the water has been at this temperature or lower for a long while.

32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 Celsius number lettering on icy glass covered with ice and frost. The concept of extreme cold weather

Water begins to freeze as the temperature drops, and the pipes that contain water are especially susceptible to freezing. A frozen pipe can be dangerous because they are highly likely to burst, which can cause significant leaks and flooding.

In addition, pipes might freeze due to wind chill. Ice formation is frequently sped up by the cooling effect in unheated places if there are holes, fissures, or openings that let cold outside air in. Even little gaps, such as those where telephone, cable, internet, or television lines enter a room, can permit a significant amount of cold air into a building.

Based on research by the Building Research Council at the University of Illinois, the “temperature alert threshold” is 20 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that if you have uninsulated water pipes, you should never let them get below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

When temperatures fall below 20 degrees, pipes will certainly freeze. This all depends on how much they are exposed to the wind and the weather. Even in heated environments, pipes may develop ice blockages if they are located close to fissures or openings that allow chilly air in.

It’s time to let at least one faucet leak when a cold spell is around -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Because temperatures in these unheated interior locations typically resemble outdoor temperatures.

Pay particular attention to water lines that are in attics, basements, crawl spaces, or garages. Similarly, ensure that pipes that run along outside walls have additional insulation.

What Type of Piping Is Most Likely to Burst During the Winter?

PVC pipes, which are commonly used, are the most likely to burst during the winter. PVC material is a type of plastic, and it stretches due to the expansion of frozen water. While PVC is cheap and easy to install, it often gets damaged during winter.

During the transfer of water, PVC pipes work well to sustain heat and can keep water in the pipes hot. However, PVC struggles when it comes to cold temperatures. PVC can shatter at low temperatures because plastic is fragile.

Pipe Material
Galvanized Steel

CPVC pipes are similar to PVC pipes, as they are also made of plastic, even though CPVC pipes are further chlorinated. CPVC pipes can tolerate higher temperatures than PVC pipes, but their prohibitive cost makes them less common.

The possibility of buying freeze-resistant piping is slim, especially when you consider that the most frequently used pipe type is prone to shattering. Fortunately, there is a superior alternative in the form of PEX pipes.

Compared to PVC and copper pipes, PEX pipes expand more readily with frozen water, require little maintenance, and are less likely to leak. Although PEX pipes are more expensive than copper or PVC, many customers find that the price is worth the quality.

Remember, though, that PEX pipes are not perfect, and have their flaws. PEX pipes are not intended to be exposed to the sun because UV rays can damage them. Also, PEX is not impervious to cracking. Low temperatures and high pressure can cause them to burst.

freeze testing copper versus pex versus cpvc

The thickness of a pipe can also contribute to how it can avoid bursting during winter. The thicker a pipe is, depending on its material, the more it will withstand pressure.

Large diameter piping can create more pressure, and when that pressure is released, valves that are launched into the air may be damaged. However, the capacity to withstand pressure reduces with time, even in the best materials.

How To Insulate Piping So That It Does Not Burst During the Winter Season

You can insulate piping so that it does not burst during the winter by ensuring that the areas where pipes are located are kept warm by wrapping them in foam tubing or flexible pipe insulation tubing. Make sure your pipes are not exposed to temperatures close to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

pipe with insulation and heating cable on white background, 3D illustration

The easiest way to prevent your pipes from freezing is to get pipe insulation that is made expressly for that purpose.

In comparison to the price of constantly fixing ruptured water pipes, pipe insulation is advantageous and a lot more affordable. Particular attention should be paid to pipes in internal, non-heated areas of your home, such as the attic, garage, or basement while insulating your water system.

how to insulate your water pipes

The most popular types of pipe insulation are those constructed of foam, polyethylene, or fiberglass. You can use newspaper wadded up and duct tape as an emergency insulation solution if freezing weather is coming your way.

The process of pipe insulation involves covering up a pipe with a material that is resistant to heat transfer, ensuring that the temperature of pipes and their contents do not change drastically.

One strategy to keep your pipes from freezing is to keep your garage doors closed. This is especially significant if water supply lines go through the garage. Any water supply lines that are left open in the garage area are at risk of freezing.

Maintaining the same temperature on your thermostat throughout the day and night is one of the greatest strategies to avoid ice blockages. The method may fail because many households tend to decrease their thermostats at night to save money on their heating expenses.

To prevent any drafts from freezing your water systems, inspect your home for any holes, cracks, or openings before the winter. Make sure to keep the heat on while you are away if you intend to leave your house during the winter.

Aron Blake

I am the lead copywriter on Homezesty and the Webmaster. I have a lot of experience in home renovations and the creation of style. I enjoy writing and sharing my tips on how to create the best living environment. My Linkedin Profile, My Twitter Account

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