what temp do pipes freeze
Home Improvement

What Temp Do Pipes Freeze: Understanding the Factors That Influence Pipe Freezing

Landry Zoya 

When cold weather sets in, homeowners often worry about the possibility of frozen pipes. The temperature at which pipes freeze depends on various factors, such as insulation, location, duration of freezing temperatures, and the region you live in. In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about frozen pipes, including preventive measures and steps to take if you encounter this issue.

What Temperature Causes Pipes to Freeze?

Pipes are at risk of freezing when the temperature falls below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the freezing point of pipes can vary depending on insulation. Most insulated pipes begin to freeze at temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. The time it takes for pipes to freeze also depends on the temperature range. For instance:

  • At 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it typically takes at least 12 hours for pipes to freeze.
  • When temperatures range between 20 and 32 degrees Fahrenheit, insulated pipes can freeze within approximately 6 hours, while unprotected pipes can freeze in around 3 hours.
  • In more extreme temperatures of 0 degrees Fahrenheit, insulated pipes may freeze in about 4 hours, whereas unprotected pipes can freeze in 2 to 3 hours.

It’s important to note that these temperature ranges refer to outdoor temperatures rather than the actual temperature of the pipes on your property.

At What Temperature Do Pipes Burst?

When water freezes, it expands, exerting pressure on the surrounding pipes, which can eventually lead to bursting. Pipes can potentially burst when the temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the time it takes for pipes to burst depends on the duration and intensity of the cold. Brief cold snaps are unlikely to cause pipes to burst, but if temperatures remain very low for four to six hours or longer, the risk of pipe bursting significantly increases.

Factors That Impact the Likelihood of Frozen Pipes

Understanding the factors that contribute to frozen pipes can help you assess the vulnerability of your home and take appropriate measures. Here are some key factors to consider:

1. Geographical Location

Homes designed for colder climates in the North are generally equipped to withstand freezing temperatures. Pipes in these regions are typically located inside the house, in well-insulated areas that minimize the risk of freezing. However, if you reside in the South or a warmer climate where freezing temperatures are infrequent, your pipes are more susceptible to freezing, even at temperatures around 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Pipe Location

The location of the pipes within your home also plays a significant role. Exterior pipes, exposed to the elements, are particularly vulnerable to freezing. These pipes tend to freeze faster, requiring only a few hours of exposure to temperatures around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. In comparison, it may take half a day for these pipes to freeze at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pipes situated near exterior-facing walls, in attics, or close to windows receive some insulation from the surrounding structure. However, they can still freeze within three to four hours when temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Pipes located inside your home offer better protection and may take up to six hours to freeze at 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Level of Insulation

Apart from natural insulation provided by your home, additional insulation measures can help safeguard your pipes. According to Energy Saver, effective pipe insulation can increase water temperature by 3 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider the following insulation options:

  • Heat tape
  • Spiral-wrap insulation
  • Fiberglass insulation
  • Spray foam insulation
  • Self-sealing foam insulation

4. Type of Pipes

Different types of pipes exhibit varying levels of freeze resistance. Copper pipes freeze faster than PEX piping, primarily because copper is a good conductor of heat, leading to faster heat loss.

5. Overall Temperature Duration

The duration of freezing temperatures is critical in determining whether pipes will freeze. If the temperature drops below freezing for only a few hours, your pipes may not have sufficient time to freeze. However, sustained temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, particularly for six or more hours, significantly increase the likelihood of frozen pipes unless preventive measures are taken.

Preventing Bursting of Frozen Pipes

Prevention is key to avoiding the costly damage caused by burst pipes. Incorporate the following tips into your home winterization routine to protect your pipes:

  1. Install insulation for exterior pipes and those near walls, windows, and attics.
  2. Insulate and winterize outdoor faucets.
  3. Maintain indoor heat above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Keep cabinets and doors open to encourage airflow.
  5. Allow faucets to drip.
  6. Disconnect hoses from outdoor pipes.


Understanding the factors that influence pipe freezing can help you take the necessary precautions to protect your home. By considering your geographical location, pipe insulation, and exposure to freezing temperatures, you can effectively prevent frozen pipes and avoid the costly consequences of pipe bursting. Remember to implement preventive measures, such as insulation and heat maintenance, to safeguard your pipes during the colder months.

Recommended Posts