What Temperature Does it Take for Pipes to Freeze?
When the weather starts to get near and below freezing, all homeowners start to think about their pipes freezing. If you’re away on vacation or business, you may wonder about the pipes in your home and whether you should have a neighbor go in and check on them. After all, there’s nothing worse than returning to your home filled with water from when the frozen pipe bursts and the water warms up again, flowing freely into your home. At this point, you’ll need some serious water damage restoration and will likely realize that the frozen pipe could have been caught or prevented before the disaster occurred.
As you can imagine, there’s no magical temperature as to when your pipes will freeze, but the generally accepted thought is that most pipe-bursting occurs when the weather is twenty degrees or less. Obviously, the colder the weather, the greater the chance of your pipes freezing.
Pipes Freezing in Your Home
The location of your pipes also has a lot to do with pipes freezing. Building codes in the Northern US states require pipes placed in ways (indoors/inside of the building insulation, for one) that help prevent freezing from occurring. Southern homes are much more susceptible to unexpected freezing temperatures because they have uninsulated pipes running through areas that are unconditioned or even outside of the home.
Even in the North, however, we get our good share of burst pipes due to freezing. Primarily, pipes in crawl spaces, attics, and so on are prime choices for a burst pipe. Also, if a home has cracks in the foundation or walls (for instance, a hole in the side of the garage brick or even a broken basement window), it’s much more likely that a pipe will break. The holes in your home where the cable television comes in are large enough to let enough frigid air in to affect your pipes.
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes in Your Home
The best way to prevent frozen pipes is obvious—keep them warm. Insulation sleeves and pipe wrappings are relatively inexpensive and available at any hardware store. We highly recommend you wrap your pipes (all of your pipes—do not leave gaps in your coverage). Also, seal outdoor cracks into your home; cold air is not good for your pipes, but the gaps and holes can also allow mice, bees, rats, and other pests into your home, as well.
Using Room Heat to Combat Frozen Pipes
If you have an emergency and can’t spend your day insulating your pipes, possibly due to a significant, overnight drop in temperature, you can also increase the ambient warmth in the room, whether that’s a garage or basement or even your kitchen or bathroom. Opening cabinets is recommended when the weather is cold—it’s good to allow the warm air from the home to get in and as close as possible to the pipes in your home. You can also add in a radient heater, which is roughly between $30-$60 at Walmart or Target. This is a “safer” (no heating device is 100% safe) form of heat and even if it’s placed in a cold environment (like a drafty garage), the additional few degrees it’ll raise the temperature may be enough to make a difference (place the radiator near the area where the pipes are).
Frozen pipes in the winter are common in our area, and if you’re experiencing temperatures below 32 degrees, you’re going to want to take a look at your pipes and make sure they’re ready to stand up to the freezing temperatures to come.
Henry Duckstein Jr.