How to Keep Pipes and Faucets from Freezing

Freezing Pipes

During the winter, temperatures can drop to anywhere from the twenties and thirties in the southern United States, to well into the negatives up north. Unfortunately, water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, so freezing weather is bad news for plumbing pipes.

Most of your pipes are probably far enough inside to stay relatively warm, and if you’re in a cold-winter climate, they’re probably fitted with pipe insulation. But pipes close to the exterior of your home, or that run through unheated attic or garage spaces, can be at risk of freezing.

Prevent Pipe and Faucet Freeze

Because water expands when it freezes, frozen pipes can burst open from the pressure, often causing thousands of dollars in plumbing damage. It’s a lot cheaper to prevent them from freezing in the first place. Here are some of the best products you can use to keep pipes and outdoor spigots from freezing in the winter.

Best Pipe and Faucet Insulation

Prime Wire & Cable Freeze Protection

One way to prevent pipes, faucets, and spigots from freezing, is to use electrical power to raise their temperature. This product from Prime Wire and Cable consists of six feet of black heating cable, which stays hot enough to prevent the pipe from getting below forty degrees Fahrenheit. Its built-in thermostat activates automatically when the pipe’s temperature hits 40.

To use this product, you’ll need to buy enough to run the length of the pipe. You’ll also need some fiberglass plumbing pipe insulation, along with fiberglass tape with a temperature rating of at least eighty degrees Fahrenheit.

If you have plastic pipes, you’ll also need some aluminum foil to create a conductive barrier between the pipe and the cable. This helps the pipe heat more efficiently, while preventing the plastic from warping from the heat.

ArtiGifts Water Faucet Cover Socks

These protective covers fit over outdoor faucets, which are especially vulnerable to freezing during the winter. Made from a heavy, waterproof polyester blend fabric, their 5.9″ by 7.7″ dimensions can accommodate faucets and spigots in a range of sizes. A full quarter inch thick, they insulate well even in unusually low temperatures in frigid northern climates.

The covers attack to spigots with a simple but secure drawstring closure system. They’re designed so that the opening hugs the exterior wall behind the faucet, preventing any cold air from getting inside. These robust faucet insulators are a great value for the price.

How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing

Because frozen pipes can burst, causing a lot of expensive plumbing damage, it’s best to prevent them from getting frozen in the first place.

One of the easiest ways to prevent the pipes from freezing is by leaving your faucets and spigots on a slow, gentle drip. The friction of the water moving through the pipes can help raise the temperature and prevent freezing.

Pipe insulation is also something you should have if you live in a cold-winter climate. This is especially important for plumbing pipes that run close to exterior walls, or that run through unheated or poorly heated spaces like attics, basements, and garages. It’s affordable (at an average of around $0.50 per foot), and it’s pretty effective.

In addition to pipe insulation, products like Prime Wire & Cable Freeze Protection, which features a heated electrical cable, and ArtiGifts Water Faucet Cover Socks, which are made from thick, insulated fabric, can provide some extra protection against freezing.

Here are a few other things you can do around your home to help keep your pipes above the temperature threshold for freezing:

  • Keep your garage door closed.
  • Open the cabinet doors in kitchens and bathrooms, to allow heated indoor air to circulate around the inner pipes.
  • Leave your faucet on a drip.
  • Keep your thermostat at a constant temperature.
  • If you’re leaving town in the winter, leave your thermostat set to 55 degrees or higher.
  • Add insulation in attics, basements, and crawl spaces.

What to do if your pipes are frozen?

If you have reason to believe your pipes are frozen, you’ll need to thaw them out. This should be done slowly and carefully, because if the ice has burst a pipe open, the melt water can flood into your home. If you’ve found a broken pipe, turn the water off at the main shutoff valve, and call a plumber for repairs.

If all of the pipes are still intact, but frozen, turn on your faucet. The moving water will gradually melt the ice that’s plugging up the pipes. You can also apply heat directly to accessible sections of pipe, using electric heating pads, a hair dryer, or towels soaked in hot water. Continue letting the water run and applying heat, until the water pressure returns to normal.

At what temperature do pipes freeze in a house?

Pipes usually don’t freeze until outdoor temperatures dip down to about twenty degrees Fahrenheit or below. However, freezing can occur at higher temperatures as well, as long as it’s below the freezing point of water (32 degrees Fahrenheit).

To reliably prevent pipes from freezing, they should be kept at a temperature of at least forty degrees. This can be achieved with insulation, heating cables, and other products.

Can Hot Water Pipes Freeze?

Hot water pipes can freeze, just like cold water pipes. In fact, they’re often more likely to freeze, due to a phenomenon called the “Mpemba effect,” which causes hot water to freeze faster than colder water under certain conditions.

What temperature will keep pipes from freezing?

Pipes will freeze at temperatures below thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures of forty or above will reliably prevent the water in the pipes from freezing.

How do you tell if your pipes are frozen?

If a pipe is frozen, you’ll notice that water isn’t coming out of the faucets to which it leads, or is coming out with a drastically weakened water pressure.

You may also notice unusual smells coming from nearby drains, which indicates that the drain is blocked, so there’s nowhere else for air and odors to go but out of it. In some cases, there may even be visible frost on the outside of the pipes.