New Mexico enjoys a warmer winter than many northern states. It’s extremely rare for temperatures to drop down below zero. But we don’t experience Southern California or Florida winters either! The average low during January and February is below freezing, hovering in the mid-20s. And that means that the plumbing in your house is in danger of freezing in places where it’s exposed and not sufficiently insulated.
If you’re worried about pipe freeze, you can always contact our plumbers to help with pipe insulation. In this post, we’re concerned with what happens when the pipes actually freeze. The main concern is that the pipes will burst. Why does this happen? You might think you know why—but the truth may come as a surprise.
The Secret of Why Pipes Burst
Here’s why most people believe pipes burst: the water expands as it freezes, and this expansion is too much for the metal of the pipes.
It’s true that as water freezes it takes up more volume. This is because the water molecules take on a hexagonal shape in ice form, expanding how much area that water takes up. You’ll see this if you ever put a glass container with water in the freezer and leave it there. When the water freezes, the glass cracks.
However, when water freezes in a pipe, it doesn’t expand outward against the pipe material. It expands to the sides of the pipe. So what causes the bursting? As the ice expands toward a closed faucet or tap, the remaining water is put under much higher pressure—and this is often enough to cause lateral bursting. This is why people are advised to open up their taps during the winter to allow a trickle of water to escape; it helps reduce the pressure.
If you do run into a frozen pipe, don’t try to thaw it on your own. This will actually increase the pressure as the water melts. You need professional plumbers, so pick up the phone or contact us online and we’ll be there to help!