Although water freezes at 32° F, it usually needs to be at least 20° F before your pipes freeze. Windchill also plays a factor, which can cause the temperature to suddenly drop by as much as ten to twenty degrees. Luckily, we have had only 2 days in 2021 with temperatures of 20 degrees or lower.
This is most common along outside walls and cracks or gaps in your foundation. Since you can’t control the temperature outside, it’s more important to worry more about how cold it is inside your home.
Although any pipe can freeze if it gets cold enough, some are more likely than others due to their location. Here are the pipes that are most likely to freeze:
The absolute minimum temperature to keep pipes from freezing is 55° F. However, between 60° F and to 68° F is a much safer range. This ensures that the air around your pipes is warm enough to prevent freezing. This is especially true if you live in a warmer climate, where most homes are not insulated against the freezing cold.
The best way to keep your pipes from freezing is to add insulation. If you can see the pipe, wrap foam sheath insulation around the pipe.
These are available in both rolls and pre-cut sections at most home improvement stores for around 50¢ per foot. Make sure you cover any visible water pipes, especially in garages, basements and along outside walls.
If you cannot see your pipes, you should consider having your entire home insulated instead. Not only will this keep out cold air during the winter, but it will keep your home cooler in the summer too.
If you have a water spigot outside your home, you need to shut it off then drain the water. Most spigots have a shut-off valve inside your home, so look in your basement or utility room.
Once the water is off, turn on the spigot to drain the water inside the pipe and close the spigot. For added protection, install a foam insulation cover over the faucet to block out cold air as well.
If you have an in-ground sprinkler system, you should winterize it as well. Start by turning off the water, then run your sprinklers until the water stops. If you have the system on a timer, remember to turn that off too.
If you have an attached garage, make sure you keep the door closed during the winter and especially overnight. You can also add insulation to the door itself to keep your garage warmer. If you have water pipes in your garage, you definitely need to insulate them as well.
When the weather is extremely cold, you should also heat your garage. Although you can use propane burners, they can produce carbon dioxide which can suffocate you. For this reason, it is much safer to use electric heaters. If you are using a heater, remember to keep walls with water pipes the warmest.
Cabinets below sinks are another place that pipes will freeze, especially if they are along the outside wall. Even in heated rooms, the cabinet doors will hold in cold air and block out the heat.
By opening the cabinet doors, you help air circulate better and reduce the risk of pipes freezing. Although you should open them any time it’s extremely cold, it’s usually necessary at night when temperatures are the lowest.
If it’s colder than 0° F out, you should use a space heater as well. Put it four to five feet away and direct the airflow inside the cabinet.
Another way to keep pipes from freezing is to leave your faucets running. Even just a slow trickle is enough to keep them from freezing.
While you can do this at any time, you should definitely run your faucets when it’s colder than 0° F outside. Also, hot water pipes are just as likely to freeze as cold water lines.
If your faucet has two handles, make sure that you open them both. However, leave single-handle faucets in the center so both hot and cold water flow.
Remember to plan in advance when vacationing, even if cold weather isn’t in the forecast. Before you leave, set your thermostat between 64° F and 68° F and open up under-sink cabinets.
You should have a friend, family member, or neighbor check on your home every day. Have them check inside the house every day and see if they can stay overnight if it’s below freezing.