The Science behind Burst Pipes. Why do Really They Burst?

Everybody has heard of burst pipes and maybe you yourself have been the victim of one. The last thing one needs at 2 am in the morning, is to call a local plumber because of a burst pipe. And just imagine if you are away for a day, or a week, and the inevitable happens! Your poor home! But what exactly happens when water causes metal to split, and what can you do about it, should it happen to you?

The Cause

Water will expand as it transforms into ice. In a pipe, ice will first form on the inside of the pipe and then  spread inward until there is a solid filling of ice stuck inside the pipe. When this happens, the expanded frozen water in the pipe, simply pushes water back into the water main. When the pipe is completely blocked with ice, it seals water between the formed ice and the closed valve. If more ice is created between the blockage and the closed valve, the expanding ice has nowhere to go, and causes the pipe to rupture at its weakest point. (Water expands up to 9% more in its ice form!)

Do hot water pipes burst?

You may think that hot water would prevent any pipes from bursting, right? Because surely, hot water pipes are less likely to burst because of the obvious higher temperature of the water inside of them would make the formation of ice crystals more difficult to occur. But no, when the conditions are right, hot water, and therefore a hot water pipe, freezes faster than a cold water one because of the Mpemba effect. Although it is not fully understood why hot water freezes faster, scientists say that the highly charged hydrogen bonds in water, give it unique properties.

If you have a burst pipe, try to reduce any damage by:

  1. Turning off the water supply

Turn off the main stop tap – get to know where the stop tap(s) are located, so you can immediately stop the flow. Then, drain the cold water system by turning on all cold taps. Should you reside in Perth, W. Australia and have a burst pipe in Joondalup, make sure to use a qualified and professional plumber. Also, keep a watch on ceilings. If there is a bulge due to water leakage, make a hole and drain it.

  1. Turn off water heating systems

Switch off your central heating, immersion heater and any other water heating systems. Once your water heating has shut down, turn on the hot taps to help drain the system.

  1. Turn off the electrics

Do NOT touch any wet electrical fittings – lights, sockets or appliances. Switch off the electricity supply straight away and call an electrician.

  1. Professional

Call a professional to repair the damage. Diamond Plumbing & Gas in Perth, W. Australia, are the plumbing and gas experts, and have been in the business for over 25 years.

Finally, there are some other reasons why a pipe may fail and we need to call an emergency plumber, such as age, misuse or damage, so have a look around, and make sure yours are up to scratch!

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