If you have a faucet that keeps dripping all day long, generally you want to repair it as soon as possible so that you don’t waste water. However, that’s not the kind of a dripping faucet that we’ll be looking at in this article.
Instead, we will be looking at the practice of purposely letting your faucets drip to prevent your pipes from freezing in cold weather.
Let’s dive right in.
When and Why Should You Let Your Faucets Drip?
There is one main reason why you should let your faucets drip, and it’s all about cold weather.
During the winter, various water pipes in your home may freeze when exposed to sub-freezing temperatures. That’s especially true for those that are installed outdoors and subjected to extreme cold.
If your pipes freeze, water will obviously not flow through them, leaving you with no ability to wash things or take a shower. Not only that, though. Frozen pipes are also prone to bursting and causing you headaches. After all, having to call a plumber and pay him to fix the issue is no fun.
The reason why pipes can burst is the fac that when water freezes, it expands. And when it expands in small pipes, they might not be able to withstand the extra pressure. Burst pipes can cause severe flooding in your home and it can cost a whole lot of money to repair both the pipes and the ensuing flood damage.
However, if you let your pipes drip when the temperature is cold, it will keep the water moving in the pipes. Even a little bit of water movement is usually enough to prevent it from freezing, and thus it to prevent the pipes from bursting, ultimately preventing the flooding of your home.
How Many Faucets Should You Let Drip?
Seeing as dripping your faucets can prevent pipes from freezing and bursting during the winter, you might be wondering how many faucets (and which ones) you should let slightly open. The important thing to note here is that which faucets you let drip is much more important than how many you let drip.
Simply put, you need to drip all of the faucets that are connected to pipes that get exposed to those cold temperatures. For instance, a pipe that leads directly from the hot water tank to the sink does not need to be dripped, as this never gets exposed to cold weather.
However, any pipe that is exposed to the cold, such as a cold water pipe running around the outside of the house, or runs through a wall that borders on the cold exterior of your home, needs to be dripped. Moreover, if you have a pipe that leads all the way from one side of the house to another, allowing the faucet that is the furthest away from the origin of the pipe to drip is ideal.
Remember, if you only drip one faucet along the pipe, especially the faucets closer to the origin of the pipe, the latter sections of the pipes and the connected faucets may still freeze. Again, the trick here is to drip the faucet that is furthest away from the source of the water, as this will keep the water moving through the whole pipe from one end to another.
Should You Drip Hot or Cold Water to Keep Pipes from Freezing?
You might think that only cold water pipes need to be dripped because there is no chance that hot water will freeze. Well, this is totally wrong. The fact of the matter is that in sub-zero temperatures, it only takes a few minutes for the hot water in the pipes to cool down.
If the temperature is extremely cold, it can take an hour or less for hot water pipes to freeze. Therefore, allowing both the hot and cold water pipes or faucets to drip is called for. If you only drip one of the two, the other one may very well still freeze.
How Fast Should You Let the Faucets Drip?
If you are worried about wasting water, whether due to environmental issues and conserving water, or simply because water is expensive to use, don’t be too worried, because you don’t have to let the faucets drip too much. Anywhere from 5 to 10 drops per minute will suffice.
As long as you allow at least 5 drops to come out of the faucet per minute, this can be all you need to make the difference between functioning pipes and a frozen mess.
Do You Need to Let Drip Both Outdoor and Indoor Faucets?
Yes, you absolutely need to let both outdoor and indoor faucets drip to prevent them from freezing. In fact, letting your outdoor faucets drip, such as those connected to garden hoses, may be even more important than letting the indoor faucets drip.
Remember that the water pipes most susceptible to freezing and bursting are those which are most exposed to the cold temperatures. Seeing as outdoor faucets feature pipes that often run along the outside of the house, or even run along the inside of an exterior wall, they get exposed to much more of that cold.
Therefore, allowing outdoor faucets to drip is essential. Remember that although outdoor faucets are outside, the origin still starts in your home. If those outdoor faucets burst, you could have a serious mess in your basement.
How Much Does It Cost to Drip a Faucet?
One thing to note here is that how much it costs to drip a faucet really depends on where you live. Simply put, you might live in an area where the cost of water is very high, or you might live somewhere the cost is very low. Some people may even live in areas where there is no cost to use water.
That said, estimates are that a leaky faucet can cost you up to $20 per year. Assuming you only need to let your faucet drip for the three coldest months of the year, that is $5 per year. Chances are, actually, that dripping your faucet will cost you even less than this, as this estimate is based on a faucet with a fairly severe leak.
The bottom line is that although a leaky faucet is usually not a good thing, when it comes to cold temperatures, allowing your faucets to drip ever so slightly can make the difference between everything remaining in working condition and your basement turning into a swimming pool.
While not free, it is certainly an affordable insurance policy against having to spend hundreds of dollars on fixing damage caused by a burst pipe.