How Your HVAC Stops Your Pipes from Freezing

Have you ever had to deal with a frozen (or worse yet, busted) water pipe during the winter? It’s no fun, that’s for sure. The rule of thumb for most homes is that when the outside air temperature drops very low, you should leave each of your faucets dripping to minimize the risk of frozen pipes. 

Is that the only solution? Can your HVAC help to stop pipes from freezing in the winter?
Why do pipes freeze?

Have you ever accidentally left a can of soda or a bottle of water in your vehicle overnight? Alternatively, have you ever put a drink in your freezer to get it cold and then forgotten about it?

If you answered yes to either of the above questions, then you’ve experienced a basic rule of science. Liquid, as it freezes, expands. This can cause a massive, sticky mess and can be a pain to clean up.

Likewise, there is almost always some level of water in your pipes. As the temperature drops, the pipes closest to your outside walls will start to freeze. To prevent this from happening, water needs to continuously be moving.

Still, even huge flowing rivers can freeze if it gets cold enough. Depending on the temperature inside of your home, a simple drip might not be enough to keep your pipes from freezing.

What is the minimum temperature for your home?
Some homeowners like to set their thermostats very low when they sleep. We’re talking around 60 degrees, maybe less. Is this cold enough for your pipes to freeze?
To answer that, we need to rewind to science class from high school. Do you remember at what temperature liquids freeze? If you said “32 degrees”, you’re correct! However, if it’s 32 degrees outside and 60 degrees inside, will your pipes still freeze?

Not likely. Most of the time, frozen pipes aren’t a concern until the outside temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. What makes the difference is the location of your water pipes. The biggest threat, again, is to pipes closest to outside walls. We wouldn’t recommend setting your thermostat below 60 on particularly cold days, as this will play havoc with your HVAC system itself (never mind your pipes and preventing them from freezing).

What happens if the power goes out?
First, if your pipes are insulated that will help minimize the concern. Second, another consideration is to install a backup generator. This will allow you to keep your HVAC system running even if the local power grid is down.

How your HVAC helps to stop pipes from freezing in the winter

Your heating system should seek to maintain a consistent temperature balance throughout your home. Zone-based heating can take the load off of rooms that don’t have water pipe concerns, such as your upstairs bedrooms. In addition, the spent energy from your furnace, even when it’s well below freezing outside, aims to keep all of your home’s systems running at optimal levels — including your water pipes.

Would you like to learn more about zone-based heating or improving your current system’s efficiency to protect your home this winter? Then contact us to get a free online quote or send us a message to learn more.

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