In Atlanta, Georgia the average low temperatures usually only reach the freezing point of water in January and February. Atlanta’s average low is 31 degrees in January and 34 in February. (Note: the temperatures are expected to drop below freezing this weekend!)
The water in your pipes will freeze when its temperature falls below 32 degrees. So pipes that are in unheated areas of the house (like the attic or basement), pipes that run along exterior walls which do not have adequate insulation, and pipes that run outside of the house (like the spigot for a garden hose) are all particularly vulnerable to freezing when the weather gets cold.
When water freezes it expands. So if a pipe is completely full of liquid water and it freezes, the ice will take up more space than the water did. This puts pressure on the walls of the pipe and results in a crack. The real fun begins when the ice melts and the water begins to pour out all over the inside of your house. Unfortunately, this happens to most people in the middle of the night, because that’s when temperatures are at their lowest.
By taking a few simple precautions, you can save yourself the mess, money and aggravation frozen pipes cause.
During Cold Weather, Take Preventive Action
- Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
- Find the inside cutoff valve for all of your external garden hose spigots and turn them off.
- Make sure all of your garden hoses are removed, drained and stored. Open outside spigots to allow any standing water to drip out. Leave these open until the weather gets warm again.
- Open basement doors, attic doors, and kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. (Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.)
- Add insulation to the unheated areas of your house to keep the air and the pipes above freezing.
- When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing because the temperature of the water running through it is above freezing.
- Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
- If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55ºF.
So while frozen pipes are not a huge problem here in Atlanta, it will feel like a huge problem if it happens to you. By taking some simple precautions you can avoid being the exception to the norm.