Plumbers warn pipes could burst later as temps stay low

Sub-zero temps already leading to leaking pipes

INDIANAPOLIS - Plumbing professionals reported no widespread issues with bursting pipes as the mercury dipped below zero in Indianapolis, but they warned that a second day of a harsh freeze could cause pipes to burst in the days ahead.

"My larger concern really is tonight when the temperatures have stayed so low that we’re going to start getting more actual frozen pipe calls,” said Jack Hope of Hope Plumbing in the Broad Ripple area.

"A quick low drop for 24 hours doesn’t really affect much. It’s when it gets cold and stays cold that we really start to see stuff freezing," he said.

In business for nearly eight years and focused on mostly residential repairs, Hope said his phone has been ringing with people whose pipes are now leaking because of the cold.

"Everything is so much colder that that metal contracts on itself…Because of that contraction, the older, weaker pipes start dripping from whatever weak spots there are," he said.

He urged people to leave a small stream of water trickling from indoor faucets overnight between Monday and Tuesday.  

"You don’t need much water running, just a nice steady stream, enough to keep water running through that pipe," Hope said.

Furnaces also kept repair crews busy on Monday, but one repairman said most people were calling with concerns about furnaces that were actually working just fine.

"When it’s this cold outside, systems just can’t keep up," said Brian Schutt of Home Sense Heating & Cooling. "Furnaces aren’t designed for below-zero temperatures."

His company heard from a number of people worried that their thermostats were set at 70 or 71, and yet the temperature remained around 67 inside their homes.

"That’s really as good as it can get right now. Kind of reset priorities….if that’s all it can get to, let’s reset expectations a little bit," he said.

He said he’s urging people to change their filters if possible, since that can allow more air to flow throughout the house.  He also tells people to shovel snow around the outdoor heating equipment if a heat pump is in use.

The key is not to fall into a false sense of security now that the mercury has been below zero for a full day, Hope said.

He said pipes that are frozen now may not start spewing water until temperatures thaw in days or even weeks.  

"Because it’s ice (inside the pipes), no water is coming out. It’s not going to be until the temperatures warm up a little bit or when people’s heat kicks back on moreover that that ice is going to thaw out, and once that ice ball is gone, it’s going to start spraying out of that hairline crack on the pipe," Hope said.

He suggested that homeowners who want to avoid frozen pipes in the coming days should try setting up a fan in the basement to circulate warmer air throughout all the pipes underneath the house.

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