Whenever winter approaches, homeowners become cautious about their water pipes becoming frozen. So they check or call a plumber to implement preventive measures before the situation escalates.
While it can be easier and cheaper to implement preventive measures on your own rather than calling a plumber, most people don’t have the right knowledge of pipes freezing point; hence they often seek help.
Although water pipes freeze at 32 degrees or lower, other factors (like pipe insulation) might lead to this situation. Fortunately, this piece aims to uncover all the relevant details of frozen pipes. So keep reading to discover more.
This post will answer the question, “At what temperature do pipes freeze,” and provide solutions if you face the problem.
At What Temperature Do My Pipes Freeze?
Whenever the temperature is 32 degrees or lower, your water pipes are at a higher risk of becoming frozen. While you can avoid pipe freezing, it mainly happens when you don’t implement preventive measures like insulation. The notable benefit of insulation is that freezing will begin as from 20 degrees downwards.
Furthermore, when the temperature drops to 20 degrees or below, you often have a maximum of 6 hours before your insulated pipes begin to freeze. However, in some cases, it might take as long as 12 hours before freezing elements are visible. Having this information at the back of your mind can help you plan how to prevent pipes from freezing.
However, you must note that the temperatures discussed (20-35 degrees) apply to your house environment, not outdoor temperature. That means the temperatures outside your home will likely make a small difference in whether your pipe freezes. But, you should always monitor your home’s temperature as it has a more significant impact.
When Should I Be Worried About Pipes Freezing?
Ideally, the pipe might freeze at any point from 35 degrees if not insulated. However, if you have insulated pipes, you should be worried when the temperature hits 20 degrees. If this happens, the pipes will freeze, and the pipe walls will have immense, uncontrolled pressure due to exposed pipes.
Unfortunately, if the pressure is significant, it might lead to serious damage to the pipe. This can lead you to costs you have yet to plan for. To help you, here are a couple of things you can do to ensure your pipes don’t freeze:
- Always ensure your thermostat is set at 55 degrees, even if you’re away on a trip during winter.
- All exposed pipes in your house should be insulated. Most importantly, pay attention to pipes positioned on exterior walls or in cold sections of your home ( attic or basement).
- Ensure you have sealed all the openings and cracks around windows and doors to prevent cold conditions from affecting pipes, hence freezing.
However, if you’re suspicious that your water pipe might be frozen already, here are a couple of hints you need to keep a closer eye on:
- Check if water comes from the faucets: Your pipes’ first warning of freezing is often this the faucet not removing water. The water within the pipe is probably already frozen if you turn on a faucet and nothing comes out.
- Frost on exposed pipes: Another sign to check out is frost on your water pipes. If any section of your pipe has frost, it means the pipe is starting to freeze, or it has already happened.
- Strange noises coming from pipes: Water may cause pipes to rub against one another or nearby walls when it freezes and swells inside of them. A slamming or popping sound may result from this.
How Much Drip Do I Need to Prevent Frozen Pipes?
Water is lost when a faucet drips; thus, only pipes susceptible to freezing (those that pass through an uncovered or exposed area) should have the water running. A minimal leak may occur. A flow of one gallon per hour is sufficient for freezing to be avoided.
Nonetheless, it’s possible to experiment using a container to determine the flow level. However, you can observe as you count the drops per minute to help you have conclusive information regarding pipes freezing. Use the information below to determine the conclusion:
- Any indication of one gallon hourly means freezing is easily preventable/
- If you notice one quart hourly, freezing has just started.
- Below one quart hourly means there’s little impact on the freezing.
Do You Drip Hot Water to Keep Pipes From Freezing?
A tiny tickle of cold or hot water can go a long way in ensuring your pipe doesn’t freeze during extreme conditions. Ensure the hot water flows at night to counter the cold temperatures experienced in the evening. Ideally, this needs to happen from the outside wall faucet.
Insulating your pipes will prevent icing. Protect your pipes with pipe wraps or covering, particularly exposed to the chilly air. Fix leaking pipes as soon as possible. In cold weather, a tiny leak may develop into a significant issue.
You should open the faucet if your pipes do freeze. Water will begin to flow past the frozen portion of the pipe while the blockage melts. The pipe will melt, and the amount of pressure that may cause it to explode will be relieved.
What Temperature Do Pipes Bursts?
Due to the expansion when water freezes, water pipes may break due to the created pressure. That means when it gets under 32 degrees, your pipes may break.
The length of the cold spell and its intensity will determine when they finally rupture. They won’t likely burst during a brief cold spell, but the water pipes may rupture if it lasts 4-5 hours.
Factors That Impact Whether Your Pipes Will Freeze
While it might be challenging to identify if water pipes are vulnerable to freezing immediately, there are a couple of factors you can consider to guide you. Here are some of the factors you need to know about pipes freezing during extreme conditions:
1. Where You Live
The area in your home will determine if your water pipes are much more vulnerable to freezing. Certain houses are designed to manage cold conditions, making it less likely for your pipes to be affected. Ideally, water pipes in such areas are often insulated as a preventive measure.
However, there is an area where pipes are more likely to be frozen. These areas experience extreme temperature conditions and changes, which might affect your pipe if not managed effectively. If you live in warmer climate regions, you always need to look out for the pipes to avoid any inconveniences.
2. Pipe Location
Due to their proximity to the weather, outside pipes are especially vulnerable to icy conditions. Although the pipes provide some shielding from freezing, these pipes will be the first to freeze. This implies that exposed pipes will freeze quickly at about 20 degrees but may not do so for an entire day at 32 degrees.
Compared to external pipes, those nearest to an outside-facing wall, windows, or attic are less vulnerable. Nevertheless, at temperatures below 20 degrees, they are still likely to freeze after 3-4 hours. Around 20 degrees, it could require up to 6 hours for the pipes within the residence to freeze.
3. Overall Temperature
The water pipes won’t freeze if the outside temperature falls under freezing temporarily. On the flip side, if temperatures fall under 20 degrees for an extended period—especially six or more hours—pipes will freeze without any protection. This means you need to evaluate the conditions or ask for assistance in identification if you don’t know what you’re doing.
4. Type of Pipes
The type of pipe in your home might determine how fast freezing occurs. Copper pipes often have faster freezing elements, meaning you must check them regularly and regulate the temperature within your home.
It freezes quicker as an excellent heat conductor, so freezing will be quicker. However, if you’re looking for a pipe that will sustain you long without freezing elements, PEX piping is the best option.
5. Level of Insulation
In addition to the property’s built-in insulation, sealing may help preserve your water lines. The greatest pipe insulation to avoid freezing may increase the temperature of your water by about 3 -4 degrees, based on Energy Saver. Below are a couple of insulation methods you can implement:
- Self-sealing foam insulation
- Fiberglass insulation
- Spray foam insulation
- Heat tape
- Spiral-wrap insulation
Will Shutting off Water Keep Pipes From Freezing?
If you can find your valve, turning off your water is the best way to prevent pipes from freezing. If not, keep your faucets running with a trickle—not a drip—to avoid breaking pipes.
The most common places for pipe freezing are on exposed or insufficiently insulated pipes, especially in areas where the air is extremely cold. When the water within the pipe freezes, it expands and exerts pressure on the pipe walls. The pipe can split or explode under this strain.
Closing your water pipe hours before freezing will often help manage the damage. However, if you’re dealing with an already frozen pipe, here are a couple of steps you can implement:
- Shut off the water at the main valve: Stopping water from the main source is a great way to prevent water from pouring into your house.
- Turn on the faucet: By implementing this, you may reduce the frozen pipe’s strain. Water will begin flowing from the faucet as the rigid material melts. Keep it running until the water pressure is back to normal.
- Thaw the pipe: To defrost a frozen pipe, use a hair dryer, heat light, or small space heater. Avoid defrosting a pipe with an open flame (like a blowtorch). Flush all your faucets after the rigid material has melted to allow the system to breathe easier and drain any leftover water.
However, if the problem persists and you have tried all the methods you could use, it’s time to call a professional plumber. While it will cost you a few bucks, it will be worth it compared to the damage that might occur in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can Pipes Freeze in One Night?
Yes, based on the weather and the placement of your pipes, pipes may freeze in a single night. Your pipes might freeze in under six hours if they are below 20 degrees.
Although well-insulated pipes may take longer to freeze, you should still abide by municipal regulations to avoid frozen pipes. The sort of pipes you have and your climate may affect how soon your pipes freeze.
2. What Temperature Should I Leave My House So My Pipes Don’t Freeze?
Setting your thermostat to no below 55 -60 degrees is a smart idea if you’re taking a trip and are concerned that the weather may turn cold while you’re away. Most places will have enough warmth from this to keep the water pipes from becoming frozen.
3. How Long Does It Take for a Pipe to Freeze?
The amount of precaution taken, the exterior temperature, and the time the outdoor temperature is below freezing. Most pipes will likely freeze in six to eight hours. In temperatures below 20, uninsulated outside pipes may freeze in as little as six hours. Unguarded pipes at 32 degrees require a minimum of 12 hours to freeze.
4. What Is the Minimum Temperature to Keep Pipes From Freezing?
To effectively stop pipes from freezing in your home, you must set the temperature below 55 degrees. Also, you’ll have to check often if your thermostat battery is used up and replace it.
Alternatively, you can ask someone to check your house often while you’re away to ensure everything is running smoothly the way you left it.
5. Will My Pipes Freeze at 0 Degrees Celsius?
Even if water begins to freeze at 0 degrees Celsius, your pipes won’t do the same. That means that if the outside temperature is 32 degrees, you should not worry as this will not likely affect the pipe. However, the temperature within your house is what you need to be concerned about more.