Extreme cold temperatures could rapidly freeze un-protected pipes both outside and inside

Video: Matt Makens experiments with freezing pipes

DENVER - Extreme cold took over Colorado and the Denver area Wednesday morning and sub-zero cold lasted through Friday morning.  The low for Denver was 19 below zero early Wednesday morning, and ranged from 10 to 16 below zero Thursday and Friday morning.

Typically we worry most about water pipes outside of the home, but this extreme cold may also cause broken pipes inside your home.

Pipes in unfinished or unheated basements are at risk of freezing and breaking. Further, any piping in an area of the home that falls below 60-degrees is susceptible to a break.  In cold like this, many of our furnaces can’t keep up enough to keep the home safely warm.

Copper pipe breaks are more common in older homes that lack the type and amount of insulation as modern homes, and many modern homes no longer use copper piping in lieu of a more resilient and flexible plastic.

If you have any exposed copper piping in a cold portion of your home you should consider protecting it.  First by trying to keep the space above 60-degrees (The City of Denver recommends a thermostat setting of no colder than 65).  

Some recommendations: Safely operate a space heater, open cabinet doors under sinks, and set your faucet to have a slow drip.  As a last resort try foam pipe insulation or even throwing a blanket or towel around that pipe to try to prevent a break.  Be most mindful of those pipes right near an exterior wall.

This experiment only took 30 minutes to freeze the pipe, however that is outside obviously.  In your home, a pipe can freeze just overnight if not protected.  This cold snap is certainly long enough to cause a break in many homes.  

This extreme cold will subside slowly through the weekend. It will likely be Sunday at the earliest before temperatures climb back to freezing and above.