AUSTIN (KXAN) — As someone who grew up in Colorado, where we turn our noses up at anything less than a foot of snow and can experience temperatures well into the negatives, I admittedly turned my head when I learned I need to be “dripping” my pipes during hard freezes in Texas.
I had never heard of such a thing — even in extremely cold conditions in the Colorado mountains, I had never left a faucet running to avoid having pipes freeze. So why do people do it in Texas?
We checked with the Local 286 Plumbers and Pipefitters here in Austin and crosschecked that information with my dad, John Reader, an engineer who builds apartment complexes in Denver. We found there are three main differences:
- In cold weather climates like Colorado’s, pipes are put in interior walls and floors, while they’re regularly on exterior walls here in Texas
- Water pipes are typically only buried one foot deep here in Texas. For context, in Chicago they’re buried six feet
- Texas is one of three states where you can put your water heater in the attic, the Local 286 Plumbers and Pipefitters explained. Why is that an issue? The insulation of your home often does not extend to the attic, so your water heater is not within the ‘insulation jacket’ of your home. Additionally, if you have an electric water heater and the electricity goes out, your hot water can very quickly become a massive ice block — and a massive problem
For an in-depth look at the forecast for this storm, check out KXAN’s forecast story.