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How Cold Does it Have to Be For Frozen Pipes?

Temperatures in Frederick County are a little warmer this week, but in the next few days we’ll drop well below freezing. Water pipes can burst when temperatures get low enough, so it’s a good idea to be aware of why that can happen and how to prevent it.

When Is It Cold Enough for Pipes to Freeze?

Many homes in Northern Maryland are built to withstand cold weather, but if you have an older home that has pipes along outer walls and an unconditioned attic, the “temperature alert threshold” is 20 degrees F. This threshold is based on research conducted by the Building Research Council at the University of Illinois.

Why Do Water Pipes Burst?

Pipes don’t burst when ice initially forms inside of them, but rather when continued freezing and expansion causes water pressure to build up between the ice blockage and a closed faucet. It’s similar to what happens to a can of soda when it freezes (according to LiveScience.com, “Frozen soda can explosions are not due directly to water expanding as it freezes, but to the resulting pressure put on an isolated pocket of C02”).

How Can I Prevent My Pipes From Freezing?

  • Wrap exposed pipes in towels or insulating material. You can find foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves at a Frederick County hardware store.
  • Open cabinet doors that are near outside walls to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
  • When outside temperatures are near 20 degrees, turn on faucets near outside walls and leave them at a slow drip.
  • Never set your thermostat to below 55 degrees even if you’ll be going out of town.

What If I Suspect a Frozen Pipe or a Pipe Bursts?

If you open a faucet and no water comes out, turn it off quickly and call a trusted licensed Middletown plumber. Don’t attempt to thaw a frozen pipe with a lighter or other type of open flame since this can damage the pipe or even start a fire. If a plumber isn’t able to get to you quickly, put a space heater in the room where you think the frozen pipe is located, or if you have access to hot water, rub hot washcloths on the pipes.

Putman Plumbing is Here to Fix All Your Winter Plumbing Problems

Whether you suspect frozen pipes or you have a problem with your water heater, we can help. Just call our office and we’ll send a skilled, licensed Middletown plumber right over!