We're breathing a sigh of relief here in southern New England, now that we have emerged from some of the coldest weather we've had here in years. Sunday's low temperatures broke records up and down the East coast, but highs for the days ahead could reach into the fifties by week's end.
Still, while those frigid temperatures are gone for now, the problems for water pipes might continue, according to Chris Miller, General Manager at Roto-Rooter in Providence. Miller said that some pipes have frozen but not burst, and that means they could have small cracks in them, which won't become obvious until they thaw, and start to leak.
"We're going to find a lot more problems when the temperature hits into the mid thirties," Miller said. "You're going to see leaks coming through that pipe split before, that you didn't know."
The extreme cold we've been experiencing, combined with the wind chill is a threat not only to exposed skin, but to exposed water pipes as well. A strong wind chill can substantially shorten the time it takes for water in a pipe to freeze, when air temperatures are already at or below freezing.
"If it’s exposed, it’ll freeze quicker with the wind chill, even inside a wall," said Miller.
Miller said his company has been seeing a lot of customers with pipe problems related to the cold weather over the last couple weeks because of the cold temperatures.
"On the corner of a house, or anything that the insulation is not inside there, the wind chill will definitely freeze that up quicker. We’re having a lot of people that have said, 'hey I’ve been living here for 25 years and I’ve never had this problem,'" Miller said.
Freezing water turns to ice in the pipeline, which expands and can burst the pipe. To avoid that, Miller suggests opening a faucet just a little bit, so the water circulates and is less likely to freeze. It might increase your water bill a bit, but that will be cheaper than a burst pipe and the water damage that can cause.
Another thing to keep in mind: Frozen pipes can be thawed out with a hair dryer, or you can try turning up the heat in your house, but you don’t want to use an open flame:
"You never want to put a direct flame on a pipe, because that will expand it quickly, it’ll split, and then you’re gonna have a mess,” said Miller.
You might also risk igniting a fire.