Summer is coming.
Okay, summer has been here for a while. With several record-breaking heatwaves and the possibility of hot autumn looming ahead, dealing with scorching temperatures has been a, ahem, hot issue across 2021. Keeping yourself, your pets, and your houseplants cool is an important part of dealing with the heat, but did you know that extreme heat can even affect your plumbing? While many people are aware of helpful habits to keep pipes from freezing, that knowledge doesn't always extend to protecting pipes from other forms of extreme weather.
To that end, let's take a look at what high temperatures can do to your pipes, along with ways you can prevent them from causing problems for your plumbing. After all, do you really want to find out there's an issue with your water while you're trying to cool off during a 95-degree day?
Hot Temperatures Can Damage Your Pipes Just Like Cold Weather Can
We're all familiar with what cold water can do to pipes. Forgetting to leave the warm water running and accidentally freezing a pipe can feel like a right-of-passage for college students and first-time homeowners alike. A similar phenomenon can happen when your pipes are exposed to extreme heat, although the exact process looks a little different.
Pipes burst during cold months because pipes contract when exposed to cold temperatures. If pipes contract too much, they become unable to hold the water pressure that's running through them and burst. Conversely, pipes expand when exposed to heat, and this can cause their own variety of problems. As pipes expand too much, they can lose their structural integrity and start to buckle. When these warped pipes are next stressed, like under cold temperatures or when you're using a lot of water, they can collapse entirely, bursting and sending water spraying everywhere.
Heat can also negatively affect the water pressure in your home for a variety of reasons. One of the most common—and underrecognized—causes of this is actually a mismanaged sprinkler system. Certain "smart" configurations on sprinkler systems can cause your pipes to work overtime during hotter days, and this can absolutely sink the water pressure inside your house.
There are other risks from pushing too much water through your pipes too. Filling swimming pools or getting over-excited with the garden hose can strain your pipes more than they're used to, which increases the risks of leaks developing. These leaks can also be caused by tree roots, interestingly enough. During the summer months, these roots are growing outwards in search of new sources of water and nutrients. If they grow too close to pipes, it's possible they can puncture or crack them!
Simply put, there's a lot of different elements during the summer can strain your house's plumbing system. So, what can you do about it?
Keeping Your Pipes Working During Summer Means Monitoring (and Managing) Them Responsibly
Ultimately, the most effective solutions for protecting your plumbing from extreme heat aren't super dynamic. As fun as it sounds to set up emergency ice baths to cool off your plumbing—or standing nearby and fanning it while filling up a swimming pool—the most effective solutions all stem from paying attention to your house's water use.
If you have a smart water meter, this can be as easy as checking the use reports in the meter's integrated app. Manually reading your water meter requires a little more work, but it's fairly intuitive once you get the hang of it. Ultimately, you don't need to care too much about individual gallons—you want to be paying attention to unexpectedly high water use from week to week or mystery water use while you're not running anything that requires it. Either of these irregularities in your water meter could indicate a leak that's impacting your water.
From there, it's just the simple matter of either calling a plumber or braving the fearsome world of DIY plumbing.
Beyond that, a little can go a long way when keeping your pipes safe from the adverse effects of heat. Try to stagger your water use during the day so that you don't overstrain your pipes, and double-check your sprinkler system to make sure it's using an appropriate amount of water.
Water pipes can be like taxes in the fact that it's easy to avoid thinking about them until something goes wrong. Like taxes, however, a little bit of foresight goes a long way in keeping you covered!
How have the heat waves this year affected your plumbing? Let us know in the comments.