“Will it sink or will it float?” This is a sentence you might hear if you were sitting in an elementary school classroom studying the properties of water. You would be learning how the density of water affects objects that come into contact with it. One way to determine this is to fill a basin with water and put objects of varying weights and sizes into it. The objects that sink have a density that is greater than water. Objects that float have a density that is less than water.
Another property of water is its ability to turn from a liquid into a solid. This demonstrates the physical changes that water goes through during the freezing process. This ties in with kinetic energy and changing states of matter. Water turning from a liquid into a gas, as well as ice melting, represents other forms of kinetic energy. There are numerous science experiments students can try in order to demonstrate these processes. There are projects for older students, younger children, and even experiments that require chocolate chips!
While learning about these concepts at school is both fun and educational, what happens when your home turns into a science experiment without your realizing it? This can happen when the temperature outside drops below freezing. Extremely cold weather can cause pipes that are not well insulated and located close to the outside of your home to freeze. You will discover this when you try to turn on the faucets in your home. If the water does not come out, there is a good chance that it is frozen in the pipes. This is not good, especially if it happens in your shower. When water freezes, it expands. If it expands too much and the faucet is closed, water pressure can build up between the area that is blocked by ice and the closed end of the faucet. As the water continues to freeze and expand, it can cause the pipe to burst. If the faucet is closed, there is no exit. If the faucet is open, water can drain into the sink or bathtub. Once the pipe thaws, the water will start to shoot out of the faucet full force if the faucet is open all the way and no other damage has occurred.
There are a number of options you can try to prevent pipes from freezing. This includes keeping the faucets open. If a trickle comes out, you stand a better chance than if the pipe is completely blocked. You can also carefully apply heat to the portion of the pipe that is frozen. This can be done using a portable space heater or an electric hair dryer. Take precautions to make sure that these items do not come into contact with water. Always call a plumber if you are unsure, or if you have any questions.
Once your pipes are safe from freezing temperatures, you can try other science experiments at home to show your children what happens when water freezes. Other experiments include making frozen bubbles or maple syrup candy in the frozen temperatures!
Enjoy your science experiments! Be safe! Share your newfound knowledge of freezing water with your friends and neighbors. Who knows? Maybe one day you will save someone else’s home from becoming a “cold weather science experiment!”