Energy Saver

Have You Looked at Your Pipes Lately?

March 14, 2011

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You know, it doesn't matter that some of you are probably already thinking about spring. It doesn't matter that the bulk of winter is over for a lot of you. I'm going to say this anyway, because sometime, someday, it might be useful. Or, well, it might not be if you live in Florida. But for the rest of you, I will repeat this suggestion:

Check the insulation on your pipes!

You see, early this February we had a nasty bit of weather here in Colorado. One day the low was somewhere near -15°F, and the high was a balmy -2°F. The next day, when it reached a scalding 6-or-so degrees, a pipe in my apartment exploded.

That said, the pipe that blew wasn't one I could have done anything about—it wasn't actually connected to my apartment, it just happened to be in my ceiling—but that's not likely to be the case for a lot of you.

If you live in a place where the temperature is going to fall below zero, you are going to need to think about your pipes. If you live in a place where it freezes, you probably don't have any water pipes in the truly "cold" zone of your house—that is, in a place where there's no heating at all. But you may have pipes in colder parts of your home, like around the water heater. And a bad snap of weather can do some surprising things.

(And, as I said a very long time ago, you should probably keep the internal temperature of your home well above freezing, too.)

In any case, insulating your cold water pipes can help make sure they don't explode in cold weather. And, as a bonus, insulating your hot water pipes saves energy on water heating. So really, insulating everything helps.

But it helps to check out your home and know whether you might have some pipes in bad places. Is there any way that there are pipes that could be exposed to freezing temperatures? Because the last thing you want to come home to is an inch of water on the floor.

Elizabeth Spencer is a communicator at DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which assists EERE in providing technical content for many of its Web sites.