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Should I be concerned about pipes freezing in Phoenix?


Once or twice a year there may be a small risk of pipes freezing in Phoenix. The last winter when temperatures fell below freezing long and far enough to freeze pipes was during the winter of 2010/2011. Since then, just a handful of days have been cold enough to nip the plants, and even fewer to freeze the pipes.


In order for pipes to freeze, the temperatures have to drop below 32 degrees F for a sustained period. Pipes located adjacent to a heated building seldom get that cold, since the heat is always radiating outward, regardless of the insulation levels in the walls.


Pipes Most Likely to Freeze


Irrigation pipes and sometimes swimming pool pipes are the most vulnerable to freezing weather. Outside pipes have greater exposure to cold temperatures. Irrigation pipes lie close to the surface and if there’s water inside them, they can freeze.


Popup sprinkling systems and drippers can and do freeze, but if they’re on a timer and it’s set to “off,” odds are the pipe won’t burst. Once the weather warms, the ice blockages should melt without causing problems.


Evaporative cooler water lines freeze easily in subfreezing temperatures. However, if the water pan is dry and the water supply turned off at the hose, it won’t freeze.


Freeze Warnings


When the National Weather Service issues a freeze warning for the greater Phoenix area or your neighborhood, there’s a possibility for pipes freezing in Phoenix. Although it’s not unusual for temperatures to fall to freezing a few mornings each winter, most of the time the cold doesn’t last long enough.


However, your home may be more vulnerable if it:


  • Sits at higher elevations around the Valley where it’s colder.

  • Lacks adequate insulation in the walls.

  • Has polybutylene plumbing that uses aluminum crimp rings.

  • Uses galvanized pipes as the water service line or throughout the home.

Both polybutylene and galvanized pipes are particularly concerning when a hard freeze is a forecast. Although polybutylene pipes are no longer used and many were replaced thanks to a class-action lawsuit in the 1990s, your home may still have them.


Signs Your Home is Vulnerable


Look for plastic pipes imprinted with PB, or are grey, white, or blue. They are freeze-resistant, but if they’re coupled with aluminum clamps, they may start to leak if they go through the freezing and thawing cycle. The pipes probably won’t burst from the cold alone, but the fittings may loosen, making them leak at the joints. If you don’t catch the leaks right away, the water damage they cause can be as serious as a frozen pipe that breaks.


Galvanized pipes were widely used until the 1960s in Phoenix homes. Over time, the insides of the pipe will corrode. Galvanized pipes freezing in Phoenix are a problem when the loose debris inside the pipes breaks free and plugs the screen on the faucets.


You may notice rusty water coming from the taps, which indicates corrosion inside these pipes. Bits of debris break off that may contain calcium deposits, rust, zinc, or lead particles. Besides bursting from freezing, galvanized pipes can develop leaks from extensive corrosion.


Although pipes freezing in Phoenix are a rare occasion, it can and does occur. If you have any concerns about your plumbing’s vulnerability, contact Forrest Anderson. We provide trusted plumbing services for the greater Phoenix area.


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