It may not be news that plumbing complications can lead to health issues because of sewage exposure. However, what may be news is that certain plumbing complications can result in house fires. The idea that plumbing complications can start a fire is ironic — water fixtures typically repel fires, not start them. However, despite the irony, it can happen.
Whether they’re caused by leaking pipes or pipes that didn’t thaw correctly, fires can occur if left unrepaired. Let’s take a closer look at the different plumbing errors to be aware of and how to prevent or repair them.
Leaking Pipes Can Lead to an Electrical Fire
There is no one set reason why leaking pipes happen. They can be caused by a crack in the seal, a build-up of foreign items clogging the pipes (hair, oils, food waste, and toiletries), tree roots, improper installation, and/or rapidly changing temperatures.
A minor crack caused by any of the above may not seem like a big deal. But this isn’t the case. One study found that cracks that are only one-eighth-inch in size are still big enough for 250 gallons of water to leak out of. This is why it is crucial to deal with the leaking pipe as soon as you’re aware of its existence.
Excess water in places it shouldn’t be, curling of vinyl flooring, water stains on the ceiling, or damp spots are all signs of possible leakage. You may be able to diagnose the leakage yourself, but it’s best to leave repairing it to a trusted professional. Depending on how damaged the pipe is, it may need to be replaced entirely, not just repaired.
Regardless, it is important to repair/replace the damaged pipe as soon as possible. If left unattended, it could result in bigger cracks — the bigger the crack, the more water will leak. Larger cracks in the pipes aren’t your only problem. Bigger, more harmful issues like an electrical fire can happen if the problem fails to be addressed in a reasonable amount of time.
Improperly Thawing Frozen Pipes
Frozen pipes aren’t uncommon in areas where temperatures drop below freezing. Even areas that aren’t known for their harsh winters can see frozen pipes. The difference between the two is that one location is prepared for frozen pipes, while the other is not.
This is an issue because, in the areas where frozen pipes are common, they’re able to use special pipes built for sub-zero temperatures. Homes in warmer climates, on the other hand, may be built using standard materials that aren’t fit for cold weather.
Because of this, some uninformed individuals use flawed methods — like using a torch — to thaw out the frozen pipes. While this may seem like a sure-fire way to rid your pipes of the frost, it’s everything but. Not only are they dangerous if used improperly, but using torches to thaw your pipes can cause damage and even house fires.
You can tell if you have frozen pipes by turning your faucet on full blast and watching the water flow. If there is little to no flow, then this could be a sign that your pipes are frozen. If you do have frozen pipes you should:
- Turn off the main water line;
- Open a faucet supplied by the frozen pipe;
- Turn up the thermostat, access the pipe, and use infrared light to thaw it out;
- Apply heat using safe and tested warming methods (warm towels, electric blanket, or heat tape);
- Check for other frozen pipes;
- Call a plumber.
The best way to ensure your home is safe from frozen pipes is by knowing how to prevent them. Purchasing helpful heating supplies, like pipe insulation, heat cable, water meter insulation, heated water hoses, and heat tape are great ways to avoid frozen pipes in your house.
Heat tape is a bundle of wires (similar to extension cords) designed to keep pipes from freezing. It can also be used to warm up gutters, downspouts, and the edge of roofs.
However, heat tape is a tool that can be extremely helpful and extremely dangerous all in one. In fact, heat tape causes about 2,000 fires, 10 deaths, and 100 injuries every year.
It’s worth noting that most modern heat tapes have a built-in thermostat. This is beneficial because it will automatically turn off as the pipes heat up to the desired temperature. However, this isn’t a completely fool-proof method to ensure it doesn’t start fires.
Proper installation and maintenance are crucial when you’re working with heat tape. If you are unsure whether or not you are capable of installing it yourself, you can reach out to a professional for guidance.
Soldering Work on Pipes
To solder means to combine two or more wires by melting metal and joining them together. Plumbers may use this technique to repair damaged wires found in, on, and around pipes.
This is a task that should never be done by amateurs. Doing so could result in serious injury or fires. To ensure the soldering job is done correctly, you will want to talk with a local plumbing company to see who can conduct the job safely.
You may be able to diagnose the cause of the damaged pipe on your own. However, this doesn’t mean that you should repair it. Instead, reach out to a trusted plumbing company. That way you can have peace of mind knowing the job will get done safely and correctly — preventing further damage and house fires in the future.