Forensic Engineering Analysis of an Apartment Freezing Sequence Using Heat Flow Equations




heat balance, instantaneous heat flux, electrical heating, pipe freeze, pipe freeze time, pipe burst, toilet freeze time, open window heat convection, room heat loss, forensic engineering


Four students had staggered departures from their electrically heated third-floor shared residence apart-ment to travel home for the winter holiday break. Two pipe bursts and two frozen toilets were discovered a week after the last resident had left. The property management group gathered scene evidence and analyzed the cause of the water escape. The investigation revealed that some electric heaters had been turned off, and some bedroom and living room windows were open. A forensic engineering analysis was conducted to qualita-tively determine the effects of heater disengagement and open window positions on the apartment temperature drop and to estimate the likely start date of sub-zero Celsius conditions. Heat flow and balance equations for different sets of factors were used to quantitatively assess the instantaneous heat flow trends as the basis for understanding whether certain students carried more burden of liability. The analysis revealed that the open windows were the dominant factor for the freeze-up condition development that led to the bursts.


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How to Cite

Couture, Daniel P. 2023. “Forensic Engineering Analysis of an Apartment Freezing Sequence Using Heat Flow Equations”. Journal of the National Academy of Forensic Engineers 39 (2).