So what is the minimum temperature to keep pipes from freezing? In this post, we detail the answer to this million-dollar question, but first:
Identifying the minimum temperature to ensure pipes don’t freeze is a great skill homeowners must practice. While it might seem like a manageable situation, in a real sense, it will cost you a fortune in constant repairs.
And if the problem persists (and the pipe bursts), you might be forced to replace the pipe.
Whether the climatic conditions are warm or cold, you will likely experience frozen water pipe challenges. However, the problem is quite visible during winter, affecting copper and plastic pipes.
This calls for you to act promptly and implement preventive measures before a surge in the issue. It also means you need to conduct regular maintenance on the pipe.
On top of that, you need to identify a method that will guarantee the safety of your pipes and ensure they don’t freeze come winter.
You also need to monitor any tiny crack in the tube, as it might spew gallons of water, leading to severe damage to the furnace. It might also lead to the formation of mold, which might cost you extra bucks to fix.
How Do Pipes Freeze?
The pipe freezes when the temperature drops, leaving water pipes vulnerable. However, frozen pipes have devastating effects like flooding and leaks, which need immediate fixes. This leads to inconveniences and extra costs you should avoid incurring.
Often, the pipe expands when water freezes, leading to breaks and leaks. That means you need to be extremely cautious with what goes in your freezer. Avoid items like soda cans that will likely explode when not removed from the freezer over a long period.
In the same way, you are careful with soda cans staying too long in the freezer; it is the same way you need to be cautious with water pipes. The freezing water in the pipes will eventually lead to a massive rapture.
However, the frozen sections don’t burst; the pressure applied to other units often causes damage. Specifically, the ice blockage section and the faucet often experience this difficulty.
Wind chill also contributes to freezing pipes in unheated sections with cracks, openings, and holes. These factors enable cold temperatures or outside air, often leading to rapid ice formation.
Tiny spaces also play a massive role in ensuring the pipe freezes, leaving it vulnerable to constant repairs or replacements. Nonetheless, the unheated interior sections of the pipe’s location are often susceptible to ice blockages.
This includes attics and garage, with the basement taking the lead with 37%. Note that pipes that run through interior walls or cabinets may also freeze, leading to similar complications.
The Minimum Temperature to Keep Pipes From Freezing
Based on the temperature information availed by the University of Illinois, the threshold for pipes to freeze often stands at 20 degrees. Researchers from the Building Research Council concluded that freezing usually occurs when the temperature drops to 20 degrees.
This means you must watch for any development or signs during low temperatures. Nevertheless, you can still watch the pipes below 20 degrees. Freezing can also occur when the temperatures are higher, and you always need to be on the lookout.
Once pipes are exposed to openings and cracks, they will likely freeze. So whether it’s cold or warm, you need to check the state of the pipe regularly, especially when the temperature is below 20 degrees.
What to Do if Your Pipes Freeze
If you notice your pipe is frozen, you’ll need to find a solution to melt the ice and ease the damage done. However, you’ll have to be extra keen to distinguish between a cold snap and actual damage. Here are a few tips to help you identify whether your pipe is frozen.
- Frozen pipes: Ensure to check for any exposed section of the line regularly. Look for any frost, which will mean it’s frozen. However, if there is no sign, the pipe is ok.
- Unusual smells: If your pipe is easily accessible, you can smell odorous and strange elements from the faucet or drain. This indicates the pipe is frozen since the smell element is trapped and stays in and within the house.
- No water: Lack of running water indicates the water pipe has complications. The only possible answer is that the pipe is frozen and needs to be checked. One indication is when the faucet is on, but only a tiny amount of water comes out.
After you have assessed the possible indication that the pipe is frozen and you have clear answers, it’s time to take the next step. At this point, you‘ll have to thaw the pipe to reform to its natural state. However, you must be highly cautious when implementing this method to avoid inconveniences.
However, if you’re dealing with a broken pipe, it will be best to turn off the water from the source and contact a professional plumber. They’ll be able to look closely at where the problem might originate and offer informed advice to solve it.
Nonetheless, if you’re dealing with a pipe that has not burst, use the steps below to restore it to its natural state by unfreezing it:
- The first thing you need to do is ensure the faucet is on. Let the ice plug melt gently from there and come out of the piece. The running water will facilitate the melting, so keep it on.
- Ensure to provide heat to the water pipe to help melt the ice. If the section of the pipe full of ice is easily accessible, you can thaw it for a couple of minutes using a heat wrap. Alternatively, you can implement a hair dryer or space heater to melt the ice from the pipe.
- At this stage, keep heating until the ice level reduces and the pipe is restored to its normal state. Ensure you evaluate other faucets and see if other pipes might be frozen. Once you identify the pipes, use the methods applied above to unfreeze the pipe.
8 Tips to Prevent Frozen Pipes in Winter
Dealing with frozen pipes is a problem only a few homeowners appreciate. However, dealing with it at a different time is even more detrimental. As a result, you need to find ways to prevent frozen pipes, especially during winter. Use the preventive measure below to avoid frozen pipe:
1. Insulate Pipes
One of the most valuable and reliable methods of preventing frozen pipes is using insulated pipes designed to handle such situations.
While pipe insulation is considered relatively expensive, considering the cost you’ll incur if the water pipe bursts, it’s worth every penny. Ideally, you need to focus on cold-temperature sections of your home, such as the basement (which holds a record of places likely to have frozen pipes), the garage, and the attic.
Note that most pipe insulation systems are made from foam, fiberglass, and polyethylene, giving you a wide range of options. However, if you’re in an emergency and need a quick fix, you can use a newspaper and duct tape to provide a makeshift solution.
2. Let Faucets Drip
Another superb way to prevent water pipes from freezing is to open the faucet for a reasonable amount of time. Note that it’s okay to have all faucets open at different times. You’ll only need to check faucets attached to exposed pipes and keep them running for a significant amount of time.
The power or running water, even in small portions, holds a lot of energy compared to still water. The friction of moving water produces a significant heat level which might help prevent frozen pipes. All you need to do is ensure the faucets are open, and you can manage the situation.
Running faucets release pressure buildup in cold pipes more effectively than the little friction and heat generated by flowing water. Even if the water within freezes, this prevents your pipes from exploding.
3. Use Heating Tape
You may immediately wrap the electrical heating tape around the pipe in easily reachable piping sections to aid in retaining heat. This may be particularly useful for pipes in chilly attics, basements, or other unheated or outdoor settings.
The two types of heating tape available are self-regulatory and controlled. When the pipe requires additional heat, the sensor-equipped first kind of heating tape automatically turns on and off. When using manual warming tape, you must plug it in anytime heat is required and unhook it when the pipe is heated.
Just like dealing with any heating system, you should be careful with the electrical heating tape as it has dangerous effects when handling. Ensure to read the manufacturer’s instructions and safety measures before use. From there, you can apply the knowledge to the piping system.
4. Keep the Thermostat Consistent
Another method to avoid frozen pipes is having the thermostat at night and during the day at a similar temperature. Most homeowners make is reducing the thermostat to save a few bucks, especially at night.
However, once the pipe is frozen or broken, you’ll incur more than you would have spent if you had kept the thermostat on. That means you must keep the thermostat settings consistent night and day to prevent frozen pipes. That means you’ll be able to save a few bucks since you won’t have to deal with repairs and changes.
5. Seal Cracks and Openings
You must get to openings and cracks in your pipe before it’s too late. You should conduct a proper inspection just before winter to identify challenges. Check the door frames and windows for unusual features.
If you discover any openings or cracks in your pipe, you must seal them immediately. You’ll have effectively dealt with the piping issue by closing the crack. Along with minimizing ice buildup, this increases the insulation of your house and helps keep warm air confined.
6. Open Interior Doors
Ensure all interior doors are open to prevent frozen pipes during winter. Pipes tend to reside in the major areas of your house, such as the cupboards in the kitchen and bathrooms.
Although most houses have unequal heat distribution throughout the building, even these pipes are susceptible to freezing. Keep internal doors open to ensure that heat is distributed throughout your home continuously and evenly. This encourages air circulation, a valuable tactic during cold snaps to circulate warm air from room to room.
7. Keep Garage Doors Closed
Keeping the garage doors closed is also a preventive measure to ensure pipes don’t freeze in winter. This is crucial if water supply lines pass through the garage since, typically, garages have a lot of smooth concrete, which keeps the area chilly.
The area is already rather cold without allowing additional chilly air to enter, which would lower the garage’s total temperature. Any water supply lines unintentionally left open in the garage are at risk of freezing, a tragedy waiting to happen.
8. Leave the Heat On
If you will be away from home during winter, it’s ideal to have the heat on before leaving. While having the heat on with nobody at home might seem like a bad deal, you can save yourself a lot of trouble about frozen pipes when you return.
It’s better to sacrifice the heating bill that incurs the high costs of replacing or fixing frozen pipes. However, ensure the heat is medium and not how you would use it when you’re around. You can try 55 degrees or above to ensure the pipes are in the same conditions you left them.
Based on your approach, water pipes can make or break your financial plan and time allocated to fixing frozen parts. To be safe, you need to implement the preventive measures above.
These methods will help identify openings and cracks and repair them without the help of a plumber. If the problem is beyond your capabilities, you can contact a plumber.