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Question: Why does leaving the water dripping / running keep water pipes from freezing in the winter?

Question by RoboticGenitals: Why does leaving the water dripping / running keep water pipes from freezing in the winter?
I suppose that another way to ask that question is: why is moving water (liquid) less likely to freeze?
What exactly is the scientific reason why running water doesn’t freeze, and doesn’t it have to be moving at a certain rate relative to the temperature?

Thinking in extremes: if the water was running one gallon per minute, but the pipe got down to -300 degrees Fahrenheit, wouldn’t it freeze then? I know I’ve seen frozen streams and creeks before.

Best answer:

Answer by Ashley
moving water wont freeze

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5 Responses to Question: Why does leaving the water dripping / running keep water pipes from freezing in the winter?

  1. purest s

    This will of course depend on lots of variables.

    when water comes from underground pipes it is 2-6 degrees centigrade, so the heat transfer from this to the pipe above, trying to freeze is small but enough to slow the freezing effect + also the friction of the water over the ice forming inside creates a tiny amount of heat.

    it is possible to freeze moving water as the ice plug forming in the pipe will become larger it will let less water throug so less heat transfer. this can be overcome by increasing the water temperature and increasing freezing temperature i.e insulation or increas the speed at which the water is traveling hence increasing heat transfer.

  2. nosdda

    Running the water, doesn’t stop the water from freezing,but it reduces the risk. If water is moving, then it is less likely to freeze. It is when water is trapped in the pipes that it will freeze much quicker. It is similar to a stream which is moving water, and a pond which is not. The pond will freeze while the stream will not. If you do not want to keep running water to prevent pipes freeezing. Then shut of the mains water valv, and open all your taps and run the water out of the pipes. Leave the taps open through the night, then in the morning. Turn mains water back on and close the taps after water has run through them.

  3. SumDude

    In order to turn into a solid (ice) the water molecules must slow down, get close, and (sort of) bond. Moving water does not allow this to happen (except in super cold conditions). That is the physics.

    Never really thought about it before, but the other guy that said it is “warmer” water coming from the buried pipes that is flowing, so it does not freeze in the pipes, makes sense (in habitable climates). But once the water is out of the outdoor faucet and on the ground, it cools down and freezes.

  4. Robert F

    A good question for your science teacher.

    if you get a chance to look into an ice machine the water is constantly moving and it freezes in the cubes then is heated just enough to release and fall into the ben

  5. David N

    The water from the supplier is being pumped and is underground below the frost line. It’s warmer then 32F. If you keep water flowing through your pipes fast enough the water coming in keeps the pipes above 32F

    The earth a few feet deep doesn’t get cold like the air does.

    In very very cold weather you will either waste a lot of water or be forced to shut it off underground until things warm up.

    Most places that are subject to freeze plumbing have some type of insulation or heating element on the supply lines that are exposed to freezing temps.

    I lived in Tennessee many years ago when it got down to 14F one morning. The only damage was in an unheated / unoccupied apartment in the row. The supply in the attic burst and made a mess, but at least no one lived there.

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