What Is The Minimum Temperature To Keep Pipes From Freezing?




Last Updated on October 6, 2020

Today, we’re going to answer one simple question, what’s the minimum temperature to keep pipes from freezing and causing damage to your property?

With the winter season fast approaching, many people are busy getting ready for the holidays. Some are planning their ski trips and vacations. Others are shopping around for new gloves, coats, and boots. However, for most homeowners, the cold season means one thing: property maintenance. 

Being a homeowner comes with many responsibilities and one of them is to prepare your home for the winter. This includes keeping your pipes from freezing. With extreme temperatures outdoors, your pipes can quickly freeze. Not only is this a huge inconvenience but it can also cause costly damages to your home. 

Dangers of Frozen Pipes

When pipes get frozen, the first and most obvious problem is not having access to running water. This can prevent you from your daily tasks and activities, including taking a shower or washing the dishes. Worst, you’d have no water to flush the toilet. 

Another problem that can occur is burst pipes. When the water inside the pipes starts to freeze, it creates pressure between the faucet and the blockage. This can build up and cause the pipes to explode. Once your pipes bursts, this can make your floors slippery and cause accidents. It can also flood your home and cause water damage to your property and possessions. 

So how can you protect your pipes from freezing? Well, the best way to prevent frozen pipes is to keep them warm enough. But what is the minimum temperature to keep pipes from freezing? 

The Minimum Temperature to Keep Pipes from Freezing

According to a study by the Building Research Council from the University of Illinois, “pipes start to freeze just at or below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.” Thus, they have set this as the “temperature alert threshold”, especially for homes with uninsulated pipes. However, there are instances that freezing can occur above the threshold, specifically between 20 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. 

To avoid frozen pipes, make sure not to expose them to temperatures close to the 20 degrees temperature threshold. While that’s the minimum temperature to keep pipes from freezing, you should also prevent the pipes from reaching 32 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re going away during the cold season, you have to leave the heat in your home at nothing lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Now here comes another problem, running the heat in your home can cause your utility bills to spike. But this is nothing compared to the price of repairs when your pipes burst. To give you an idea, here’s what you need to know about the heating costs and the cost of repairing a burst pipe. 

Heating Costs and Cost of a Burst Pipe

So how does the cost of a burst pipe compare to the heating costs? Well, repairing burst pipes can cost much, much more than your heating bill. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average heating costs are between $500 and $1,500. Homeowners who use natural gas to heat their homes tend to be at the lower end of the spectrum and those who use heating oil or propane will pay higher. 

On the other hand, according to HomeAdvisor, expect to pay somewhere around $1,000 to $4,000 for burst pipes. This average price includes cleaning water damages and repair fees. As you can see, there’s a huge difference between the average heating costs and costs to fix broken pipes. 

How to Keep Your Pipes From Freezing?

Aside from making sure you meet the minimum temperature to keep pipes from freezing, here are some of the preparations you should do before the onset of the winter season.

1. Add insulation to your basement, attic, and crawl spaces. This will keep the temperature higher in these areas. 

2. You can purchase products specifically designed to insulate your pipes.

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M-D Building Products 50164 1-Inch by 6-Feet Self-Sealing Tube Pipe Insulation, Black
  • Prevent heat loss or gain to save energy
  • Use on hot or cold pipes
  • Stop condensation on cold pipes
  • Easy to install with pre-cut, self-sealing slits

For example, the M-D Self-Sealing Tube Pipe Insulation can stop condensation on cold pipes. It’s extremely easy to install too.

Frost King Foil Backed Fiberglass Pipe Wrap, 3"x1"x25'
  • The product is manufactured in china
  • The product is highly durable and easy to use
  • Easy installation and easy handling
  • 1-Inch X 3-Inch X 25-Feet Fiberglass Pipe Wrap

If you don’t want to use foam insulation, you can try this Frost King Foil Backed Fiberglass Pipe Wrap. You can also use polyethylene products. For emergencies, you can use duct tape and newspaper as a temporary solution. 

If you’re considering pipe insulation, pay close attention to the pipes in unheated areas in your home, including your garage, attic, and basement You should also properly insulate pipes under your bathroom and kitchen cabinets. 

3. Let one or some of your faucets drip, especially during frigid weather. But first, determine which faucets are connected to pipes that are exposed outdoors. Then, leave them slightly open (a small trickle will do) to prevent ice blockages from forming. 

4. Check your home for cracks and openings and seal them before winter comes. This will prevent any drafts from affecting your water system.

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  • Rod retracts after each pull of the trigger to help prevent dripping

For cracks, you can use the Newborn Drip-Free Caulking Gun and apply a line of caulk smoothly. 

5. Apply electrical heating cable to piping systems that can be easily accessed as this will help them retain heat. Again, this can be especially helpful for pipes in unheated areas. 

Now, there are two types of electrical heating cables. The first one is manual. This will require you to plug the device whenever you think your pipes need heating. The other one is a self-monitoring device with a sensor that can switch on and off by itself whenever the pipes need more heat.

HEATIT JHSF 30-feet 120V Regulating Pre-assembled Pipe Cable
  • JHSF doesn't work unless the ambient temperature is below 37F/3 degree C. Please test the cable in a cold environment.
  • Suitable for use on plastic and metal water pipes.( including inlet pipe,drain pipe, sewer , palm tree frost protection etc). Self regulating heating cable output will adjust automatically based on...
  • Pre-assembled, easy to install. Including grounded plug with light, built in thermostat(turn the cable 37F on 50F off) and instructions. 120 volt, 3 watts/ft at 50 degrees F. Protect pipes up to 2" in...
  • ETL approved. 2 ft 18/3 cold lead with plug. The lowest installation temperature of this heating cable is -10 degree C. Tough XLPE as inner insulation and weather resistant PE (high-low temperature)...

A great example of this is the HEATIT JHSF Self-Regulating Pipe Cable. It is an automatic device that adjusts its power output to compensate for temperature changes in your pipes. 

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