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Can running your faucets during the winter stop your pipes from freezing

Homeowners are bombarded with a number of home remedies, shortcuts, hacks, old wives’ tales, tips, and tricks once they move in, to the point that it becomes overwhelming trying to sort through what is real and what is rumor passed down the block. One such suggestion that’s given to any homeowner living in a state with snow and ice in the wintertime is to let all of the faucets drip, just a little bit, to prevent the pipes from freezing throughout the winter. This seems counterintuitive given what most homeowners know about plumbing — namely, that leaky faucets are an issue to fix, not a practice to encourage. But surprisingly, this is one of those little homeowner lifehacks that’s truthful, and can save homeowners from dealing with frozen or burst pipes in freezing temperatures.

Dripping Water is Running Water

The main principle behind the idea of letting faucets drip during winter and when temperatures drop below freezing is that the little bit of a drip keeps the valves open in the pipes, allowing water to ever-so-slightly continue running. The trick here is to have a drip steady enough that it’s noticeable, but not so heavy that the faucet is consistently running or that will have a noticeable impact on homeowners’ water bills.

By letting the water continue to run, homeowners are actively preventing the formation of ice in the pipes. Because ice forms more easily on water that is motionless and pooling. This is not to say that in extreme temperature drops, or that in direct exposure to the below-freezing elements outside, the slightest bit of running water will remain liquid. But with the majority of the pipes indoors and with the water at least moving, the chances are that homeowners are doing their part in preventing an ice block in their pipes.

Release the Pressure

There is a secondary advantage to letting the water drip slightly from home faucets in the winter — it reduces the pressure within the pipes. This becomes extremely helpful in the event that the home’s water does start to freeze at some point along the route within the pipes. Because pressure is the main source that causes pipes to burst, not ice.

As ice blockages form in pipes, the pressure between the blockage and the closed faucets or valves increases. And as liquid water turns to solid ice, the mass of the material expands. At a certain point, this expanding ice and increased pressure reach a critical point, and the walls of the pipes can no longer hold on, causing the pipe to burst. But, when homeowners leave their faucets to drip, they relieve some of that potential pressure between the blockage and the faucet. This may not be enough to melt the ice blockage, but it can be enough to save the home’s pipes, and give homeowners — or the outside temperature — enough time to warm up the water until the blockage is no longer frozen.

While not every homeowner tip and trick is legitimate, there are a few gems that can really save your home, or your pocketbook, in a pinch. If you have questions about ways to help your home’s plumbing during winter, or are worried that you’re starting to see the signs of water freezing in your pipes and need assistance, reach out to the plumbing technicians at Duane Blanton Plumbing, Sewer, Heating, and Cooling. Just a quick phone call or scheduled appointment away, the professionals at Duane Blanton have over three decades of experience helping homeowners combat the elements and keep their plumbing flowing without issue year round. Reach out to the plumbing professionals at Duane Blanton Plumbing, Sewer, Heating, and Cooling today, directly from your online browser, or via phone at (815) 781-2567!


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