Published onDecember 1st, 2022
Does a Dripping Faucet Prevent Frozen Pipes? Expert Plumbing Tips for Winter Cold Snaps
As winter approaches, the experts here at Sanitary Plumbing often get cold weather questions like, “Does a dripping faucet prevent frozen pipes?” We’ll answer that question for you here, plus provide advice on protecting your pipes when the temperatures plummet in New York City. If you are a property owner or manager, you can’t afford to ignore these tips, lest you wind up with major plumbing repairs and water damage in your condo or co-op building.
Does a Dripping Faucet Prevent Frozen Pipes?
Not an old wives’ tale
First, let’s address the age-old debate about eliminating frozen and burst pipes by leaving the water running. Does a dripping faucet prevent frozen pipes? Yes, in most cases it does. This is a viable emergency measure for those deep freezes that hit once or twice every winter.
You can also keep pipes from freezing by letting a faucet drip in case of a long-term power outage when you don’t have any heat in your building. However, as you’ll read below, there are better ways to prevent frozen pipes. Leaving a faucet dripping can be effective when there are no other options, but it wastes water.
How to Recognize Pipes Vulnerable to Freezing
Signs to watch for
Before we discuss alternative measures to prevent freezing pipes, let’s review how to know which pipes are likely to have freezing problems. This is important when it comes to prevention because you want to prioritize these plumbing components before others.
Pipes that are likely to freeze first include:
- Pipes on cold walls (windy, shadowy, etc.)
- Pipes in areas with poor insulation, such as attics, crawlspaces, and thin walls
- Pipes in cold rooms (unoccupied units, units under renovation, etc.)
- Pipes that show signs of coldness, like exterior frost or condensation
- Pipes that have frozen previously, including those with pinhole leaks
What Is the Best Way to Prevent Frozen Pipes?
Top pipe protection for low temperatures
If it makes you feel better, you can run a dripping faucet to prevent frozen pipes, but you’ll sleep more soundly if you use the best method of protecting your pipes: insulation. There are two kinds of insulation you want to consider here.
First, wrapping individual pipes in pipe insulation can be beneficial when the thermometer goes below freezing. There are many types of pipe insulation available today. You can find DIY versions that you simply cut to the lengths you need and then wrap around exposed pipes. These are ideal for use under sinks and in places easy to access.
There are other types of insulation meant for the boiler room and radiator steam pipes. There is also insulation that can be used around pipes behind your walls or under your floors. Both of these kinds of insulation should be applied by professionals, like the team at Sanitary Plumbing or our associates at Calray Boilers.
Second, insulating broad areas that house pipes may be best when you need more than just protection for your pipes. If an occupant is struggling to keep their interior warm enough, insulating a wall may be necessary to reduce utility bills as well as prevent frozen pipes.
Other tips to prevent frozen pipes
There are a few other things you can do to eliminate the risk of frozen pipes. If your pipes are old, especially if they are galvanized, they may have become significantly narrower over the years as sediment, mineral scale, and other elements have built up inside. This leaves little room for running water as it is, let alone water that expands as it freezes. We recommend replacing these pipes with new ones, which has the added bonus of improving water flow in taps and showers.
Additionally, make sure building occupants never turn their heat below 55 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter when they’re not at home, such as during extended vacations. Many people mistakenly do this to save on their heating bills, but it puts pipes at risk of freezing. A better solution is to use smart thermostats, which offer many benefits:
- Ability to program heat to automatically increase or decrease according to home routines, like going to work or getting up in the morning
- Remote control of the thermostat via mobile phone or tablet, ideal if a user wants to change their programmed settings spontaneously when their schedule changes away from home (staying late at work, coming home early from a trip, etc.)
- Easy integration with thermostatic radiator valves for use with steam heat
- Better individual control of interior temperatures for personal comfort
- Less fuel waste and lower utility bills for occupants
Call Sanitary Plumbing to Prevent Frozen Pipes This Winter
New York City’s plumbing experts
Now is the perfect time to take care of pipes that are vulnerable to freezing, before we hit those inevitable cold snaps around the holidays or in early 2023. Sanitary Plumbing welcomes the opportunity to take a look at your pipes and make recommendations for insulation or replacement, in the case of damaged or old pipes.
We can also help you when it comes to thermostatic radiator valves. Our partners at Bolt Electric can assist with the installation of programmable thermostats, so your system is all set to go when the snow flies.
Don’t wait until you have a disaster on your hands from frozen or burst pipes this winter! Call Sanitary Plumbing today at 212-734-5000 to schedule an appointment.