Do Crawl Space Pipes Freeze?

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Crawl spaces provide a fitting place to install utility pipes and ductwork. However, these spaces are exposed to freezing air. You may be wondering whether crawl space pipes freeze. We talked to the experts, and this is what we discovered.

Pipes in an uninsulated crawl space will freeze if the temperature falls below 20° F. However, you can keep the pipes from freezing by insulating them. Insulation provides a protective barrier between the harsh cold temperatures and your pipes, thus preventing them from freezing.

You now know that crawl space pipes freeze. Keep reading as we will elaborate more on how you can keep your crawl space pipes from freezing and if you should insulate water pipes in a crawl space.

A worker checking the pipes under the crawl space, Do Crawl Space Pipes Freeze

How cold does it have to be for pipes to freeze in a crawl space?

When temperatures plummet, the chances of pipes in a crawl space freezing significantly increase. However, temperatures in the crawl space have to drop to at least 20° F for pipes to freeze, even though water begins to freeze when temperatures drop below 32° F.

Freezing causes water to expand by almost 10%, which exerts much pressure and may eventually burst the water pipes. Moreover, it impedes water flow in your home. It is advisable to insulate the pipes to keep them warm and prevent freezing. We will discuss how to insulate the water pipes in a bit.

A worker going under the crawl space checking the pipes

How do I keep my crawl space pipes from freezing?

If the crawl space pipes freeze, they can result in structural damage and high repair and maintenance costs. You should therefore be proactive and prevent that from happening by doing the following:

  • Shut the vents in your crawl space until the cold abates. However, it would help if you took precaution when using this method as closing the vents for a long time can lead to moisture accumulation which may eventually lead to mold build-up. It is advisable to listen to the weather forecast and only shut the vents on the coldest days.
  • Keep the pipes warm by using a small space heater. Ensure that you install a plug with the recommended voltage output for the space heater you opt for.
  • Use electrical heat tape - the tape maintains the temperature of the pipes at room temperature. Moreover, the tape is water-resistant and cannot be affected by water in case it leaks. The tape keeps the gutters and downspouts open when alternate freezing and thawing occurs if installed correctly. It would be best if you replaced the electric heat tape occasionally. If the tape is not changed for a long time, it may eventually cause fires or short-circuit.
  • Identify any cracks and holes in your crawl space that allow the cold air in and shut them. Ensure that all exterior openings in your crawl space are properly weather-stripped and that they shut tightly and remain shut.
  • Leave your taps to drip during the coldest days of winter. The continuous flow of water will hinder any freezing attempt. Additionally, dripping prevents pressure build-up in the pipes and eventually averts the pipes from bursting.
  • Allow heated air to circulate the non-conditioned plumbing under your sink by leaving the cabinets open. The warm air will slow down freezing.
  • Insulate the crawl space to keep the cold air at bay; hence the pipes will not freeze.

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Insulating A Crawl Space

A crawl space with a galvanized pipe connected to the upper house

As previously mentioned, insulating a crawl space will deter pipes from freezing. Additionally, insulating the crawl space reduces your energy bill since the cold air from your crawl space no longer seeps into your living area. The insulating material you opt for should be both water and mold-resistant.

You should also install a vapor barrier to prevent moisture build-up, promoting mold build-up. When molds accumulate, you may develop respiratory complications as the mold infiltrates your home.

Insulation reduces the condensation of warm, humid air on the cold walls of your crawl space. As moisture builds up, it may cause the wooden floors above your crawl space to rot, compromising the structural integrity of your building.

You can either use:

  • Rigid foam insulation - it has a radiant barrier on one side and is ideal for insulating the crawl space walls.
  • Cellulose insulation - if you have an enclosed crawl space without any form of ventilation, cell spray foam would be suitable. Moreover, it is not only eco-friendly but also fire resistant.
  • Spray foam insulation - it has a pest-resistant chemical compound and will keep the rodents away from your crawl space. Further, it is suitable for sealing cracked walls.

Step-by-step Guide To Insulate

  1. Begin by cleaning the crawl space thoroughly. Remove any old and defective insulation.
  2. Check the condition of the wooden beams and joists. Replace those that are faulty.
  3. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to install the insulating material on the crawl space walls and floors. Cover the full length of the wall and floor because gaps will deter the insulation from functioning correctly.
  4. Install a vapor barrier on the crawl space floor as this will keep underground moisture from seeping into your crawl space and raising the humidity levels.
  5. Seal all openings to keep rodents out of your crawl space.

Should water pipes in a crawl space be insulated?

A check valve frozen in the crawl space

Insulating the cold water pipes in a crawl space is advisable to avoid freezing. Further, insulating the hot water pipes ensures that the water remains hot since it prevents heat loss. Thus, you will save on both water and energy bills since you will not need to leave the water running for long to achieve the required temperature.

Insulating the water pipes in a cold space also derives the same benefits as insulating the crawl space in eliminating condensation problems. If left uninsulated, the warm, humid air may condense on these cold water pipes and eventually cause their deterioration. Condensation can also raise the humidity levels in your crawl space.

If your crawl space is insulated, you do not need to insulate the water pipes. The temperatures in an insulated crawl space are often set to a good level to safeguard against freezing and heat loss from the water pipes.

How To Insulate Water Pipes

Opt for an insulating material with high resistance to heat flow to conserve heat better. It is advisable to clean the pipes and let them dry before insulating them, enabling the material to stick better.

Typically, pipe wrap insulation is used to protect the water pipes. The insulation is available in flexible foam with rubber-backing tape, foil-backed natural cotton, bubble-film pipe wrap, and foam-and-foil pipe insulation. It is ideal for insulating small pipe lengths or areas with many curves.

To insulate the pipes:

  1. Duct tape the end of the insulation strip if it does not have a self-adhesive.
  2. Envelope the pipe with insulation in spiral loops, overlaying each loop by at least 1/2-inch.
  3. Secure the end of the insulation strip in place.
  4. Repeat until the full length of the water pipes is covered.

In Conclusion

A worker checking the pipes under the crawl space

The pipes in a crawl space are susceptible to freezing when the temperatures drop below 20° F. Therefore; you should take precautions to keep them from freezing. This will make your home habitable by ensuring a constant water supply. Moreover, it will save you a lot of money that would otherwise go into repair and maintenance if the pipes burst.

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