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What Temperature Do Pipes Freeze?

As the holiday season approaches, families and friends eagerly anticipate the opportunity to come together and celebrate the festivities, exchange gifts, and create lasting memories. However, while everyone is busy hanging festive decorations and planning for family dinners, it is still important to remain vigilant against the ever-present threat of water damage.

As temperatures drop, your pipes are exposed to low temperatures that may cause them to freeze. When this happens, you could have a yuletide disaster featuring burst pipes and costly water damage. At what temperature do pipes freeze, exactly? And at what temperature do pipes burst?

In this blog, we delve into the science behind freezing pipes to uncover when your pipes may freeze and find out what you can do when your pipes are frozen.

At What Temperature Do Pipes Freeze?

When referring to frozen pipes, it’s not your pipes that freeze but the water inside them. Water has a freezing point of 0°C (32°F), which means it turns into ice when it reaches that temperature. It can be particularly destructive to your pipes when it freezes because of its unique property: it expands when it freezes.

Most substances contract or become denser when transitioning from a liquid state to a solid state. However, water is unusual in that it becomes less dense because it expands upon freezing. In fact, it expands by about 9% of its volume.

The freezing process starts at the outer walls and moves inward, causing water to freeze near the pipe wall. Ice forming and expanding can obstruct the water flow, placing significant pressure on your pipes.

At What Temperature Do Pipes Burst?

Theoretically, water pipes will start to burst when the amount of pressure exerted on your pipe walls exceeds the tensile strength of the pipes. This occurs when the water has reached its freezing point temperature.

This means that even when outside temperatures reach 32°F, it will take considerable time before your pipes freeze and burst. At 32°F, insulated pipes can freeze in about 12 hours and about six hours between 20 to 32°F. The timeframe for freezing becomes even shorter when your pipes are uninsulated.

These are approximate figures, as other factors like wind exposure, pipe material, and water flow can also influence the actual freezing time. Monitoring your pipes during periods of low temperatures is important, as prolonged exposure to very low temperatures can cause pipes to freeze and burst.

Signs of Frozen Pipes

When dealing with the prospect of freezing pipes, it’s helpful to know the signs of frozen pipes to learn how to spot them and take immediate action to prevent bursting. Look out for the following indicators:

  • Decreased Water Flow: If you turn on a faucet and nothing comes out or only a trickle comes out, your pipes may be frozen.
  • Frost on Pipes: Look for frost buildup on exposed pipes, like those in basements or under sinks. This is a clear indication that the water inside has frozen.
  • Unusual Sounds: If you hear clanking or whistling sounds when you use a faucet, it could be a sign that water is trying to push past a blockage of ice.
  • Odors: If your pipes are blocked, unpleasant smells might come from your drains because the water that normally flushes them away is not moving.

What to Do When Your Pipes Are Frozen

If you suspect that your pipes are frozen, take immediate action to prevent damage to your pipes and eliminate the threat of water damage to your property. Here are some steps you can follow:

  1. Locate the frozen section. Check for frost on the pipe or areas where the ice is visible. You’ll usually find the problematic section against exterior walls or where the water service enters your home.
  2. Apply heat. Use a hair dryer, a heat lamp, or a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials) to warm the frozen section. You can also wrap the pipes with towels soaked in hot water.
  3. Monitor the pipe. Stay with the pipe as you apply heat to check for leaks. In case the pipe has burst, turn off the main water valve and call a plumber.
  4. Open the faucet. While treating the frozen pipe, leave the affected faucet open to allow water to flow and help melt ice in the pipe.

Lastly, if you’re unsure about how to deal with frozen pipes or detect a burst pipe, it’s crucial to contact a professional immediately. They have the expertise to address the issue quickly and prevent further damage to your home.

Protect Your Property From Water Damage With Restoration 1

Don’t let water damage disrupt your holiday season. Make sure you keep a vigilant eye on the forecast, monitor the temperatures, and implement these tips to create the best defense against the threat of freezing pipes. Remember, preparation and a timely response can spell the difference between a joyous gathering and a yuletide disaster.

And if you require professional assistance, Restoration 1 is here to help. We remain on standby 24/7, even during the holiday season, so we can lend a hand at the time you need us most. Call us at (631) 320-2008 or contact us through our online form today!