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Why Do Pipes Freeze?

You may wonder why you should be concerned with frozen plumbing when you keep your house warm all winter. While your home’s ambient temperature will help keep your interior plumbing system flowing freely, you should still be aware of the conditions that can cause your exterior plumbing and any landscape plumbing to freeze. It is not just below-freezing temperatures that cause pipes to freeze.

Frozen pipes are caused by a combination of factors, including the following:

  • Fast and/or dramatic drops in temperature
  • Poor plumbing insulation
  • Interior temperatures that are too low

The Importance of Plumbing Insulation

Even when you are home, your plumbing system doesn’t have a continuous flow of water running through it (unless you have a hot water recirculating pump installed). Consequently, if your pipes have condensation on or standing water inside them for a longer period (such as overnight), and the temperature drops, the pipes may freeze. Plumbing insulation helps prevent this from happening.

Well-insulated pipes are protected from heat transfer and quick temperature changes. Pipes that lack insulation will be more prone to collect condensation, which can then freeze when the line is not in use, causing serious problems, including burst pipes. However, only some of your pipes need to be insulated. Typically, it is recommended that plumbing be insulated on exterior walls, in uninsulated garages and workshops, and landscaping or exterior plumbing.

Review our blog, 5 Signs of Frozen Pipes to Watch Out for This Winter, to learn more.

Do I Need a Hot Water Recirculating Pump?

Hot water recirculating pump systems are typically advertised to bring homeowners hot water on demand from any faucet whenever they want it. These systems work by continuously pumping hot water through your system. However, an added benefit is that they may help reduce the chances that your pipes will freeze in the winter.

Though this is great, you should be aware of some drawbacks to installing a recirculating hot water pump. Firstly, they can cost several hundred dollars to purchase and install (and they should always be installed by a professional plumber). This is not in everyone’s budget. They also cost money to run, increasing your monthly utility bills. Finally, they require regular maintenance as parts will wear out and break.

Before purchasing one of these systems, please speak with our plumbers. Many homeowners do not need a recirculating pump to prevent freezing pipes and should only purchase one if they want to take advantage of their other benefits. The plumbers at Donmar Heating, Cooling & Plumbing can help you determine if a hot water recirculating pump is a good idea for your situation.

Other Ways to Prevent Frozen Pipes

If a hot water recirculating pump is not in your budget, you can do a few other things to prevent frozen pipes this winter. First and foremost, keep your home’s heating system on. Even if you aren’t going to be home, you should keep your system set to between 55° and 58°. This is typically warm enough to prevent freezing.

If you know you are going to have a cold snap, and pipes freezing is a major concern, you can allow cold water to drip from your faucets. The continuously running water through your pipes should keep them from freezing. You can also open your cabinet doors under the sinks and faucets you are most concerned with so that the warm air in your home can help raise the ambient temperature around your plumbing.

Finally, if you have plumbing in a garage or outbuilding, keep the doors closed and make sure the space is well-insulated (in addition to insulating the plumbing). Home and pipe insulation can go a long way in preventing frozen pipes.

Did your pipes freeze? Do you need help winterizing your plumbing system? Call Donmar Heating, Cooling & Plumbing. We are standing by to help.