Frozen Water Mains and Flushing Your Toilet.

I live in Detroit. There I admitted it. In any event, it is not as bad you all may think. Actually, we recently got a new mayor. And city services are actually improving, if only ever so slightly.

Anyways, I worry about frozen water mains. It happens every so often. And in a city that is bankrupt, sometimes they can’t fix 'em right away, naturally. But I was thinking. If I flushed my toilet, say, every hour or so, would that keep the water circulating so the main doesn’t freeze?

I do keep somewhat later hours probably than my neighbors. I am up at 3, 4, and 5 am. And that probably is the coldest time anyways (in the winter, of course).

Actually, so far I have not decided to do this. I can’t help but recall past events when I assumed some (mechanical) process I believed was correct, only to find I was mistaken. So I will first ask all of you on the SDMB.


The fresh water mains and sewer system are separate - for good reasons. The sewer system is usually much deepen in the ground and not likely to freeze. While some water main pipes might run inside the sewer system, water from flushing the toilet isn’t going to help much.

However flushing your toilet may help prevent your water pipes from freezing. And it’s possible that it would help keep the mains from freezing. So the next time you take a dump, be proud that you are doing your civic duty.

I once pulled the leg of an English girl by saying that housebuilding is much more sensible in England than in Sweden, claiming that it is much easier to fix a frozen pipe if it is on the outside of the house. The thing is she hadn’t noticed that drainpipes in Sweden are on the inside to prevent them from freezing. :cool:

Water mains do sometimes freeze and break, due to a combination of factors including the age of the main, depth of cover, rate of flow in the main, and severity of the freezing weather.

The amount of flow demand from flushing a toilet may help keep your house water service and plumbing from freezing, but is unlikely to help much with the water main itself.

Sanitary sewers are generally installed deep enough that they never freeze, especially in areas that typically experience freezing weather.

And sewer water is generally warmer than incoming water because it was sitting in your warm house for a while. That and feces is warm too. :eek:

rarely do water mains freeze. What happens most often is frost will break a water main or a water tap.
In almost all old systems in the north like were I live in MN all water taps off the main were short lead pipes about 24 inches or so that could take some frost movement and not break.
When the mains in my city were changed to plastic so are the taps and being my very good friend is on the public works I got a whole bunch of the old and new lead pipes and that material is my bullet metal for many years to come.