How Extreme Hot and Cold Temperatures Can Strain Your Plumbing

Jeff Palady
Vice President
Master Plumber

Website

As fall gives way to the cold temperatures of winter, most of us are aware of dangers to our plumbing like freezing pipes. However, extreme temperatures in either direction (both hot and cold) can strain our plumbing in a variety of other ways many of us don’t think about. Let’s explore a few ways that the cold of winter and the heat of summer can both affect your pipes.

Cold Weather

When the temperatures dip into the 30s and below, you may find occasional complications with your plumbing ranging from mild clogs all the way to bursting pipes. Some symptoms you may experience include:

  • Freezing/bursting pipes.This situation is one of the most common (and extreme) problems we deal with in the winter. When pipes are exposed to subfreezing temperatures, the water inside them freezes, expanding inside the pipes and sometimes rupturing them. When the pipes thaw, the additional pressure of the melting water may cause the pipes to burst.
  • Clogged drains.You should never pour liquid grease or oil down the drain because they can turn solid as they cool, lining the drains and eventually clogging them. This dynamic happens more frequently in the cooler months as the pipes themselves cause the grease to solidify more quickly.
  • Clogged vent pipes.Your plumbing also contains vent pipes that allow for the release of sewer gases while also letting in fresh air. Sometimes in the winter, snow and ice can collect inside these vent pipes and obstruct them. When this happens, you may observe symptoms like gurgling toilets, sewer smells and slow drains.

Hot Weather

Extreme warm temperatures can cause a strain on your plumbing, as well. Some problems you might experience:

  • Leaky or bursting pipes. Yes, hot weather can cause pipes to burst, too, though not as commonly as freezing temperatures. Hot weather causes the pipes to expand, and if they are aging or previously stressed, they may spring leaks. In addition, nearby plants and trees begin spreading their roots in the warmer weather, and sometimes these roots can penetrate the pipes.
  • Low water pressure. If hot weather results in leaky pipes, especially multiple leaks, you may begin experiencing lower water pressure as a result.
  • More clogged drains.While not directly related to the temperature, we often see more clogged drains in the summertime, mainly due to increased use of the toilets (for example, the kids being home on summer break and/or gatherings with family and friends).

Some temperature-related plumbing problems are preventable (for example, dripping faucets in subfreezing temperatures and not pouring grease down your drains). However, in many cases, the weather’s effects on our plumbing are just a matter of nature interacting with aging pipes over time. If you suspect you’re experiencing leaks or clogs due to temperature issues, call a plumbing professional to pinpoint the source of the problem.

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