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Don't mix cold weather and dripping faucets

by Mark Bower

You may have heard or been told that during the really cold temperatures, keep your faucet dripping so your waterlines don't freeze. The reasoning behind this theory is that with water constantly flowing through your waterlines, your lines shouldn't freeze. And to a point this is true, especially if your mobile home is prone to freeze-ups.

What you may not know is that a dripping faucet in cold weather could be your next big nightmare. Sure, it may be keeping your waterlines from freezing, but it could be causing an even bigger problem - freezing up your sewer lines!

Underneath a typical mobile home is an exposed sewer line. Generally, one end of this pipe connects from underneath the toilet to the septic system in the ground. This line may be anywhere from 4 to 60 feet long and a home may have more than one line.

As you can imagine, when a trickle of water drops down into a cold sewer pipe, at some point that water may freeze. Obviously, the longer the sewer line, the better the chance the water will freeze. If the slow drip continues building up ice for an extended period of time, a frozen sewer pipe is inevitable. You'd be better off to do laundry or dishes during cold snaps, than to let the water trickle.

Don't delay in repairing dripping faucets & toilets

This would also be a good time to check all faucets against unintentional drips. If you find a dripping faucet, it should be immediately repaired or replaced. Replacing a 10 cent o-ring will be much less painful than paying a service man $200-$500 to unthaw your sewer pipes!

Another inconspicuous source of dripping water is your toilet. Pull the lid off the tank. Inside the tank you'll see an overflow tube. When the tank is full, the water must be below this tube. If water appears to come right up to the top edge of this tube, then chances are great that it's dripping down. If so, adjust the float so the water doesn't come up so high in the tank. If you occasionally hear your toilet running, then you may be losing water through the flush valve in the bottom of the tank. If that's the case, replace either the flapper or the whole flush valve. Both scenarios can cause dripping into the sewer pipes.

In most cases, a dripping faucet or leaking toilet should not freeze-up your sewer pipes in one day. But watch out for when you leave home for a few days! If your worried about dripping water, one solution would be to simply shut off the water to your home. Also, double-check that your exposed sewer pipes have a constant downward slope (no flat or level areas). When it comes to unfreezing, waterlines are much simpler to unthaw than sewer pipes.

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