Let it drip. That’s the advice I give when we face the occasional night below freezing and people ask me if they should let the water trickle in their plumbing to keep pipes from freezing. It’s a simple answer to a complicated question. It’s complicated because there is often not a yes/no answer, or at least one I can give!
With a forecast low temperature of 30 degrees, for example, water will freeze, but there are a bunch of things you have to consider if you are concerned about your plumbing. A forecast is an average for an area, not for your personal property. Even if it were specific to your home, depending on the size of your lot, you can easily see a 3-degree temperature spread, where parts of your property may stay above freezing.
If you live on a hill or slope, it will often be colder at the bottom of the hill than at the top. If your home is fully exposed to wind, that would mix the air and might keep you a few degrees less cold than on a totally calm night. If you are surrounded by large trees, still with leaves, those will help to keep you from being as cold as you would be with no trees. If you are right next to the Gulf, a bay or a large lake, the water will moderate the air temperature, especially when a light wind blows across the water to you. Similarly, if you live downwind of an industrial or shopping complex, the heat from that may help you too.
Those are environmental influences. Now, what about the things you control?
If your home is raised above the ground or has a crawl space, then your pipes are more at risk to freeze. Are your pipes metal or PVC? I don’t know! Is your plumbing properly insulated? I have no clue. Was your plumbing built for cold? Don’t ask me. These are things only a plumber or builder can answer.
When you take the environmental differences of where and how a home is situated, and the physical differences of how homes are built, I will never tell someone when there’s a freeze to not let the water trickle or drip, simply because I can’t guarantee there won’t be a problem.
If you are in a newer, well-insulated home on a slab, with no plumbing in outside walls, you SHOULD have no problem with temperatures in the upper 20s and even mid-20s, IF temperatures don’t stay that low ALL night. It’s not just the low temperature you look at — it’s how long you will be that cold. That’s when using a weather app, like the NBC15 weather app, can help, by showing you hourly forecast temperatures.
If your neighbor’s home is similar to yours, ask them how cold they go before letting water drip or at what temperature they’ve had problems. When it’s really nippy, some need to get drippy.
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