More Than Pipes Freeze

The big fear we always have around cold weather and buildings is pipes freezing. If a pipe bursts, there’s going to be water damage and that can lead to millions of dollars in property and equipment issues. Imagine a pipe flooding a computer room or dousing a multimillion dollar MRI machine? It turns out however, other things can freeze too. Expand and Contract When materials are heated and cooled, they will change in size. This is from changes in their atomic structure as we put more and more energy into something. In the case of winter, it’s more of a contraction as we suck the energy out of things. These effects can be observed in a couple of places. On the extreme end of the spectrum, you have the SR-71 Black Bird, which gets longer in-flight due to heating from atmospheric friction. On the more common end of the spectrum, poor ice water in a glass bowl that’s just had boiling water in it. The bowl usually cracks, because the ice causes parts of it to cool down rapidly and contract, but the rest of the bowl is still hot. Glass has a rigid, crystaline structure and the force of contraction overpowers the rigid molecular bonds. It causes it to crack or even shatter (so don’t try this at home). These effects occur on essentially everything, with varying degrees of destruction involved. No matter what, nature is always going to […]

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The Frozen Toilet

The internet is full of some incredibly weird things. We thought we had seen it all, from exploding boilers to a bathtub rowboat. Today we came across this post on Reddit, of a toilet that sort of exploded. No one in our office has ever heard of anything like this happening. Let’s take a deeper look. Typical Winter Plumbing Winter is no friend to your plumbing. We’ve talked before about problems like pipe bursts before. These are typically your biggest winter plumbing problem. The water freezes in your pipes and causes them to burst open. When the ice thaws, you flood the house with running water. This problem is caused by one simple fact: water expands when it freezes. On top of that, the pipe is full of water, so there’s only one real direction for the force of expansion to go: outwards. The pipe is essentially more rigid than it is flexible. It’s possible to bend copper, but the force needs to be applied in the right way, that’s why we have special tools to bend copper pipes. A force like this will find the weakest part of the pipe and once that’s failed, it loses all its strength and ruptures. For this freezing to occur, typically the ambient temperature around the pipes must be below freezing. Most ground water is cold, but likely to be above freezing. The Earth it turns out, is an amazing insulator. For any […]

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