If you live in a part of the country that gets cold, you will need to know how to keep outdoor water pipes from freezing.
Let us walk you through your options and the DIY for keeping those outdoor water pipes from freezing.
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How to Keep Outdoor Water Pipes from Freezing
There are 4 things you can do to keep your outdoor water pipes from freezing. Some are easier and some are cheaper than others.
- Drain outside water lines
- Keep the outside tap dripping (Why NOT to do this Outside)
- Move the exposed pipes
- Insulate your outdoor pipes
How to keep Outdoor Water Pipes from Freezing: The Details
Drain Outside Water Lines
Draining outside water lines will remove all the water from the lines. Then there’s no water to freeze and expand inside the pipes causing them to burst. Your pipes could still become brittle over the years, being frozen and defrosting over and over again. So, while I do recommend draining your pipes, you should also think about both insulating the pipe and possibly moving the exposed pipe inside or underground.
Keep the Outside Tap Dripping (with a Warning)
Keeping your outside tap dripping just a bit means the water is running and running water doesn’t freeze easily. Problem with this advice seen on other sites, is that it might work inside your house, but it won’t work outside. It’s colder outside and the water will just start freezing into layers of ice. Eventually it will build up inside the pipe, bursting it or causing a backup.
Move the Exposed Pipes
This is the most expensive option. You would need to have some know-how or hire a plumber to physically move the pipes that are outdoors and exposed to the weather. Those pipes would then be located inside or underground. Not anyone’s first choice, but an option worth mentioning.
Insulate Outdoor Water Pipes
Insulating your outdoor water pipes involves wrapping them up to prevent the cold from directly impacting your pipes. You can insulate them with foam insulation or pipe wrap. You can also get foam fitted to elbow and T joints to properly protect the whole pipe from freezing temps. Keep reading for our directions on how to get this done. Insulate your faucets and hose bibs with specially made covers.
How cold does it have to be for outside pipes to freeze?
At what outside temperatures do pipes freeze? According to hopeplumbing.com, the temp would have to be about 20 degrees Fahrenheit for 6 consecutive hours. This is easy to accomplish in some parts of the country, so everyone should insulate their pipes before the cold weather hits.
How to Insulate Outdoor Water Pipes: Keep Your Outdoor Water Pipes from Freezing DIY
Insulating your outdoor water pipes is super easy. Here are the basic steps to get it done with foam pipe sleeve insulation (the most popular kind). This is our favorite pipe insulation to prevent freezing. This method below works best for straight pipes.
Always measure your outdoor pipes before you buy foam pipe sleeve insulation so you have enough to do the job.
Don’t forget about your faucets; they also need to be covered to prevent freezing. You can buy faucet protectors or you can cut your foam sleeves and pipe wrap to fit.
How to Protect Outdoor Water Pipes from Freezing: How do You Winterize Outdoor Pipes?
Here are 5 simple steps to insulate your outdoor pipes from the harsh cold winter weather.
- Put foam pipe sleeve onto the pipe, open it up, slide it onto your pipe
- Cut the sleeve to match the length of your pipe (if your pipe is shorter than your sleeve)
- Put extra foam aside for using on T joints, elbows, and faucets
- Seal up the whole seam of the foam sleeve with duct tape
- Seal up the ends of the foam sleeve with duct tape
If your pipe needs more than one sleeve, make sure each end of the sleeve is flush with the next sleeve and seal them up together with duct tape. This will keep any cold air from reaching the pipe.
How to Keep above Ground Water Line from Freezing
Insulating outdoor water pipes like ground water lines to keep them from freezing is as simple as using the insulation technique as above. Because the water line may be the main line to your home, you may also want to invest in an electric pipe heater that you secure along the length of your pipe to keep it warm.
Do You Need to Protect Outside Faucets from Freezing?
Yes, you need to protect all of your outdoor plumbing from freezing temps in the winter. First, drain your hose bibs/faucets. Then cover your hose bibs/faucets with insulated covers. Even a towel or a blanket would do if in a pinch.
Option 2 is more expensive: Install Frost free sill cocks (hose bibs). These bad boys can save you if you forget to turn off the water to the outside taps. They prevent the cold air from freezing your pipes because the valve and stem washer are inside your house, instead of outside.
Are there Pipes that Don’t freeze?
Not really, but there are pipes that are a bit more resistant to cold temperatures. All pipes however, will freeze if they aren’t cared for properly and/or if temps drop significantly in a short period of time.
- PEX: cross linked polyurethane piping is flexible plastic and more resistant to cold temps. They also have decent insulation properties built in
- Copper: Higher resistance to heat loss and less likely to freeze
- CPVC: another type of plastic pipe that is less likely to freeze than polyurethane
- Galvanized Steel: Less likely to freeze compared to other types of pipes
Our recommendation is either copper or galvanized steel to avoid exterior pipe freeze.
How Can I Thaw Frozen Pipes?
To thaw frozen pipes, follow these steps:
- Turn on the faucet: Turn on the faucet connected to the frozen pipe and let water run through it. This can help to melt the ice and thaw the pipe.
- Apply heat to the pipe: Use a hair dryer, a hot towel, a heating pad, or a space heater to apply heat to the frozen section of the pipe. Start at the faucet and work your way towards the frozen area.
- Use a heating lamp: A heating lamp can be used to warm the pipes and thaw the ice. Place the lamp near the frozen section of the pipe.
- Call a plumber: If the frozen pipe is difficult to reach or you are unable to thaw it, call a plumber. They will have the necessary tools and experience to safely thaw the pipe.
It’s important to be patient and gentle when thawing frozen pipes. Applying too much heat too quickly can cause the pipes to crack or burst. If you have any concerns or the frozen pipe is not thawing, it’s best to call a plumber for assistance.
How to keep outdoor water pipes from freezing is an easy DIY task that most homeowners must do before the cold winter sets in. It will save you a ton of headache and CASH.
- How to Keep Outdoor Water Pipes from Freezing
- How to keep Outdoor Water Pipes from Freezing: The Details
- How cold does it have to be for outside pipes to freeze?
- How to Insulate Outdoor Water Pipes: Keep Your Outdoor Water Pipes from Freezing DIY
- How to Protect Outdoor Water Pipes from Freezing: How do You Winterize Outdoor Pipes?
- How to Keep above Ground Water Line from Freezing
- Do You Need to Protect Outside Faucets from Freezing?
- Are there Pipes that Don't freeze?
- How Can I Thaw Frozen Pipes?
We wrote a detailed post about winter plumbing maintenance that every home owner or renter should do.