Be Prepared: Protecting pipes from the cold - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

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Be Prepared: Protecting pipes from the cold

(Source: Scott Akerman/Flickr commons) (Source: Scott Akerman/Flickr commons)

Extremely cold temperatures pose a potentially costly problem for your plumbing.

Burst pipes can cost hundreds - if not thousands - to repair, to say nothing of the collateral damage to your possessions and other property.

So how cold is too cold for your pipes? 20 degrees for buildings in the south, according to an extensive study conducted by the Building Research Council at the University of Illinois.

Keep in mind, several factors will determine if this number is higher or lower for your individual property, like how well your pipes are insulated, but this is a good general temperature guideline.

The commonly held view that expanding ice simply pushes against pipe walls, causing them to burst is actually not correct. Continued freezing and expansion inside the pipe causes water pressure to increase downstream between the ice blockage and a closed faucet at the end, and the pipes burst.

To prevent a rather costly headache, FEMA recommends you remember to FOAM, DOME, and DRIP.

FOAM: Insulate pipes exposed to the elements or cold drafts. Don’t forget the plumbing fittings, the elbows and tee joints.

DOME: Place an insulating dome or other covering on outdoor faucets and spigots.

DRIP: Allow a slow drip from your faucets to reduce the buildup of pressure in the pipes. Even if the pipes freeze, the slow release in pressure in the water system will reduce the likelihood of a rupture.

Another thing you’ll also want to do is drain the water from your swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines, following manufacturer's or installer's directions.

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