Having a good water line in your house is essential for day to day running of activities in the house. Usually, the pipes supply water all through your home to help with the necessary house chores like laundry.
Therefore, when the winter starts, it’s usually a big worry for most homeowners as cold can severely bring problems to the piping system. Usually, when winter comes, old buildings are affected the most due to old plumbing, but new houses can also be affected by snow.
In this article, we answer the question, “How long does it take for pipes to freeze,” and guide you on situations when your pipes freeze.
With this information, you can prevent your pipes from freezing, saving you a lot of money from maintenance and electricity bills.
How Long Does It Take for Pipes to Freeze?
In most cases, when water freezes in your pipes for long hours, the outcome is that your pipes will eventually burst, leaving you with a lot of damage costs to deal with. Broken pipes will also damage your property and, in some cases, bring problems to your health.
Therefore when a burst occurs, you need to call your plumber immediately to fix your pipes before there is extensive damage. It will take about 4- 6 hours for your pipes to burst from the time they start freezing.
However, this time varies from one house to another, depending on the heat insulation of your home and the kinds of pipes in your house. There isn’t an apparent time for your lines to burst.
Usually, it will take a drop in temperatures to about less than twenty degrees Fahrenheit for your pipes to start freezing if your house lacks a heating source.
The location of your pipes(indoors or outdoors) also plays a critical role in checking if your pipes will freeze. If your pipes are outdoors, they take a shorter period to freeze than those placed indoors.
The general temperatures in your area are also critical. For example, if the temperatures are below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, it may take your pipes a shorter time to start freezing and burst.
Additionally, if your pipes are well insulated from frost, it might take more than 6 hours of constant exposure to finally freeze and burst. The temperatures must also be maintained at 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below for the insulated pipes to freeze and burst.
If your pipes are poorly insulated, they will take three hours or less to freeze and burst. This is especially true if the temperatures outside are below 20 degrees Fahrenheit and you do not have a heating source.
Additionally, if your house is in the Northern area, it will take a much shorter time for your pipes to burst because of the extreme cold. Interestingly, when houses are built in such places, the homeowners always add extra insulation to the water lines because the temperatures always go below freezing point when winter starts.
Because the southern areas are not exposed to such extreme cold, the homeowners rarely insulate their water lines against frost. Therefore, when the temperatures in such areas threaten to drop, most pipes will likely freeze and eventually burst since they are not built to withstand extreme weather.
After How Long Will My Indoor Pipes Start to Freeze and Eventually Burst?
Most people assume that indoor pipes will not freeze when winter hits, or they might take much longer to start freezing, and therefore they need no insulation.
While a bit of this statement makes sense, only a bit is valid.
Even if your pipes are indoors, in about 6 hours of exposure to low temperatures, they will freeze and eventually burst. Even the highly insulated pipes will finally freeze when exposed to extreme cold.
Outdoor pipes are at a greater risk of freezing because of exposure to cold and frost. While indoor pipes take 6 hours to freeze, outdoor pipes will take less than 4 hours to freeze and burst. They are especially at a tighter risk if not linked to heating systems like radiators.
In some cases, the pipes start to freeze long before the water inside lowers to 20 degrees Fahrenheit; the moment the water reaches 20 degrees Fahrenheit, the freezing process is much faster and, in many cases, difficult to control.
Therefore, as you construct your water system, ensure your pipes are well insulated with heavy and high-quality material to protect them from fast freezing. You should also provide the spaces you place them to have a constant heat supply to protect them from freezing and bursting.
After How Long Will My Pipes Burst After They Start Freezing?
Your outdoor pipes are likely to freeze and eventually burst much faster than your indoor pipes. The reason is that the outdoor pipes are exposed to greater levels of cold than the indoor pipes.
Additionally, the indoor pipes are exposed to some heat from the house, which the outdoor pipes are not. Therefore it will take less time for the outdoor pipes to freeze.
Therefore, if you live in the Northern areas or places prone to extremely low temperatures and frost, you should expect your pipes to freeze and burst when temperatures drop to 20 degrees Fahrenheit and below. However, the water in the pipes starts to freeze long before the temperatures drop that low.
Also, if temperatures in your region drop below that level, you should expect your pipes to burst much sooner, probably after 3-4 hours.
At What Temperatures Do Pipes Freeze and Burst?
Usually, the environment’s temperature is the most significant determinant of the time it will take for your pipes to burst. If you know the approximate duration it will take for your pipes to burst, you can make necessary adjustments and prepare adequately for when your pipes burst.
Generally speaking, when temperatures drop to 29 degrees Fahrenheit or below, your outdoor pipes will take about 3-4 hours to burst. At the same temperatures, your indoor pipes will take much longer than that; in about 6 hours, they will start to burst.
The difference is because of the warmer temperatures inside the house. Also, if your outdoor pipes are well insulated with proper material, they may take longer before they burst.
Once the temperatures drop to 32 degrees Fahrenheit and below, you can expect your pipes to start collapsing.
At What Temperature Do Pipes Burst?
Most people assume that pipes will start freezing at a specific temperature and then burst once the temperatures drop to another temperature. However, that is not the case; your lines will begin to freeze once the temperatures drop to about 20-32 degrees Fahrenheit.
With the same temperature range, your pipes will burst after about 6 hours.
What do I do when my pipes burst after freezing?
You can take a few steps when your pipes or any pipes burst to prevent flooding and damage to your property. Here are the steps to take;
- Switch off the water from the main supply
- Contact your insurance provider
- Call your plumber
- Drain water from the pipes
You must know where the main water switch is. The reason is that when your pipes burst, the first step will be turning off the main valve to prevent water from flowing through the pipes.
If you don’t know where the main valve is, you should contact your landlord or your building caretaker to guide you to them.
Once you turn off the main water supply, you should contact your insurance company to cover your maintenance costs; such damages are covered by insurance.
Afterward, call your plumber, who will fix the damage. You can also check online for plumbers near you if you don’t have any on call. However, you must save a few plumber contacts for emergency purposes.
Finally, drain water from the pipes and clean up the water that poured on the floors. Cleaning up will prevent mildew on your walls and floors; mold exposure can harm your respiratory health.
Although some people prefer to wait for the plumber to clean, we recommend you clean the water yourself to prevent further damage to your property.
Is It Possible to Keep My Pipes From Bursting?
It is best to prevent your pipes from bursting altogether than to deal with the damage costs. We have developed a few points to help prevent your pipes from bursting.
Here is what you can do to remain safe during winter;
Keep your house warm; ensure temperatures are above 55 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent your pipes from freezing. If you leave your home, ensure you shut off the water from the main supply.
Ensure your pipes( especially outdoor ones) have water dripping when it is freezing outside. Although the sounds are annoying, water flowing will prevent your pipes from freezing.
Ensure you have insulated your pipes. As you protect your pipes, ensure you pay attention to colder areas like the garage will prevent freezing when it gets cold.
Use a reflector light to keep your pipes warm during extreme temperatures.
By following these instructions, you can prevent your pipes from freezing and eventually bursting once the winter season starts. Note that it’s much safer and cheaper to avoid bursting pipes than to repair them.
How Do I Thaw My Frozen Pipes?
After you realize that your pipes are frozen or have started freezing, you need to thaw them before they eventually burst and damage your property.
Various parts of the pipes require different methods to thaw. Therefore, you must determine which part is frozen and take the necessary steps. It may be challenging as most pipes are installed in hidden spaces, like behind the house walls.
If the damaged part is exposed, use a warm towel, your hairdryer, or a heating pad to thaw the frozen pipes. However, you should never use boiling water or direct heat to soften the pipes, as you will only break or cause the pipes to burst.
If your pipes are within the walls, you should break your barrier to access them.
Generally, this is all you need regarding frozen pipes. Therefore, take all the necessary precautions to prevent your pipes from freezing. You should also follow the process above to thaw your pipes if they freeze.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. At What Temperatures Will My Pipes Freeze to Burst?
Anytime the temperature drops to about 32 degrees, your pipes are at a high risk of freezing. However, insulated pipes might need about 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below to freeze.
2. Can Pvc Pipes Freeze?
All pipes can freeze when you expose them to extreme cold. However, copper pipes are most vulnerable to freezing and bursting.
PVC, PEX, and other plastics freeze but don’t always burst.