Pipes Freezing in Southern Cali – Just a Myth? - Biard & Crockett - Orange County Plumber

Is it truly possible for you to get frozen pipes here in Orange County? The answer is a bit more complicated than you might think:

It’s not as simple as the temperature

It rarely gets below freezing, 32°, here in the greater Los Angeles area. In fact, the last time it dipped that low was the early 1990s! Plus, there’s the fact that the temperature needs to be well under 32° for a sustained amount of time, in order for all the water in the pipe to completely freeze.

We know that is a bit confusing, since 32° is the freezing point. But you can think of it this way: on a frozen lake, the entire lake doesn’t freeze. It’s only the top layer that is covered in ice. The reason is that this surface layer was exposed to the most cold air, so it gets frozen the fastest. The same thing is true for water anywhere, including in your pipes – the water close to the outside of the pipe will freeze first, then slowly the freeze will trickle inwards.

So then you might be thinking, “OK. So only a tiny bit of the outside of my pipes can freeze here in Orange County. So I have nothing to worry about! It just doesn’t get cold enough!”

Actually, this is not completely true. The reason we say that the answer isn’t “as simple as the temperature” – because even a little bit of ice in your pipes can be dangerous. As you know, when water freezes into ice, it expands, unlike most liquids that shrink. The same way that you put a can of Coke in the freezer and the can bursts open (even though most of the Coke wasn’t even close to being frozen), a pipe can freeze and burst, even if most of the water is not frozen. It only takes a little bit of ice to cause a big problem!

Is there anything I can do?

Keep in mind that these concerns only affect your outdoor pipes, and possibly pipes along outside walls (like pipes in the garage, the basement if you have one). As long as you’ve done your routine winterizing and drained outdoor plumbing lines (like the hose spigot and sprinkler system) you probably don’t have anything to worry about.

If you are worried about a particularly cold snap, then leave your heat on when you go on vacation. And, if it gets really cold, leave faucets on exterior walls slightly dripping so that the movement prevents ice from forming.

Even though frozen pipes are an unlikely problem here in Orange County, there are lots of plumbing issues that can occur in winter even in a Southern California home! From leaks, to clogs, to needing new plumbing installed … Biard and Crockett does it all! Contact us online or give us a call: (714) 602-1299

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