CBRE | FacilitySource provides an innovative, technology-driven, single-source facility management and support solution to leading brands across North America. CBRE | FacilitySource maintains the industry’s largest and most reliable data repository to provide business intelligence, transparency, flexibility, support and the Elite Network of Service Providers to save clients’ money and get the most out of their facilities while offering peace of mind. Established in 2005, FacilitySource was acquired in 2018 by CBRE Group, Inc., the largest commercial real estate services and investment firm in the world. For more information, visit https://facilitysource.com.
Winter is coming! And while we don’t expect it to bring any White Walkers, it will bring other kinds of hardships that facility managers must face and conquer. One of the most frequent is pipe bursts- making it vital for facility managers to understand how to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. If and when a pipe does burst in a facility, various problems can occur including flooding, mold growth, and even product loss.
At What Temperature do Pipes Burst?
As temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the possibility of a water-line burst rises. Of course, the probability a pipe will burst due to cold weather is dependent numerous factors such as material, condition, and location. When temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, pipe bursts become more likely. It’s important to ensure all precautionary steps are taken prior to cold weather arriving to avoid pipe bursts.
2019-2020 Winter Predictions
According to our meteorologist, the 2019-2020 winter will bring extreme weather patterns- bringing deep freezes for northern states across the country. “The United States is currently under a neutral El Niña-Southern Oscillation phase. Typically, we fall into El Niño or La Niña during this part of the year,” Kevan Teasdale, CBRE | FacilitySource’s meteorologist, said. “Although this means that winter-like weather will be short this year, the winter weather we do have will include many snow storms, deep freezes, and other large winter weather impacts.”
With the heightened possibility for extremely cold weather in the northern states this year, even for a shortened time period, it’s extremely important that facility managers ensure that their facilities are ready for the cold weather. By following proper steps to avoid pipe bursts for both inside and outside pipes, facility managers can ensure that their buildings will stay dry and leak-free during winter.
Tips on How to Prevent Outdoor Pipes from Freezing
Taking steps to prevent outdoor pipes from bursting in your facilities should be consistent for every store- especially stores that have outdoor garden centers and/or irrigation systems. There are many steps facility managers should take to ensure pipes don’t freeze:
1. Shut off the main valve to any outdoor water supply
The first step in winterizing your outdoor pipes essentially entails shutting off the main valve that supplies water to a building. It’s extremely important to do this to prevent any new water from entering the pipes during cold weather.
As an added precaution, make sure to add a lock onto any closed valves. We’ve seen many situations where employees will need water for something and turn a valve back on, not realizing that they are letting water into the lines and any associated fixtures, therefore increasing the chance of the lines splitting.
2. Drain pipes
After the main valve to outdoor lines are shut off, the pipes connecting to that valve should be drained. Draining those pipes will get rid of most of the water.
3. Blow the lines
As an extra measure, blowing out the lines will get rid of any residual water that was not removed by draining. Air compressors are typically used for this.
3. Use Antifreeze
Antifreeze is a great tool to use to ensure that outdoor pipes do not freeze during the winter. A water-free pipe with antifreeze has a greater chance of surviving winter without a leak or burst.
Tips on How to Prevent Indoor Pipes from Freezing
Winterizing pipes doesn’t just include outdoor pipes but includes indoor pipes as well. Although many indoor pipes are in sheltered spaces, pipes that go through unheated parts of a facility, such as a basement or storage area, are still prone to freezing- especially during extremely frigid weather. When temperatures drop below freezing, we recommend that facility managers do the following:
1. Keep sinks dripping
A dripping sink can help prevent water from standing still in pipes. By keeping water consistently moving through the pipe, even if the stream is slow, the movement of water will help decrease the chance of the pipe freezing.
2. Periodically flush toilets
For restrooms that do not get used on a regular basis, it is important to keep water moving through the toilet lines to prevent those lines from freezing.
3. Open doors that would otherwise restrict pipes from being exposed to warm air
By opening basement doors, storage doors, or even cabinet doors during cold weather, facility managers can help prevent pipes from freezing. Pipes in those areas will be introduced to warmer temperatures from the areas that are usually heated. Although this may make your facility’s heater work harder by attempting to heat more square feet, a higher electric bill can be much cheaper than repairing a pipe burst.
Will Pipe Insulation Help Prevent Copper Pipes from Bursting?
Pipe insulation is a great thing to add to your pipes to prevent bursting- especially for copper pipes.
Some newer facilities are built with pipes that are able to better withstand colder temperatures compared to copper pipes. Alternatives to copper pipes for interior use include PEX and PVC. For exterior piping, High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) is the piping material that is best suited for irrigation in harsh temperatures. These kinds of pipes can withstand colder temperatures by contracting and expanding as temperatures rise and fall. However, many older facilities may still have copper pipes that are prone to breakage; adding insulation during the colder months is a great preventative measure.
Conclusion: Happy Pipes Equals Happy Facilities
No facility manager wants to deal with pipe bursts, so it extremely important that they understand how to prevent pipes from freezing and at what temperature pipes do burst at. As winter brings many challenges to facilities, having a fully integrated facility management plan is helpful. Integrated facility management includes end-to-end maintenance for facilities and even includes preventative maintenance to help decrease the chance of pipe bursts. If a pipe does burst, however, having access to a service provider as soon as possible can help save your facility from damage.
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