Wondering how you can Prevent Pipes from freezing in your crawl space? Should you Insulate them or heat your crawlspace?
In this guide you will learn:
- Why Do Pipes Freeze in Crawl space & at what Temperatures,
- How to Prevent Pipes from Freezing in your crawl space
- How to Insulate your crawl space and pipes in crawl space
- Should you consider heating your crawlspace to prevent frozen pipes.
Why do Pipes Freeze in a Crawl Space?
One of the main reasons why pipes can freeze in your crawl space is because a crawl space is partially exposed to outside elements, such as weather and cold.
Given this, changes in temperatures like cold air can freeze the running water in the pipes.
Another issue can be if the crawl space isn’t properly insulated during the winter. Then the cold air will freeze the pipes and could cause flooding or other damages to your home.
Temperatures at Which Pipes will Freeze in your Crawlspace
As a general rule, temperatures outside must drop to at least 20 degrees or lower to cause pipes to freeze.
- PVC pipes – when temperatures approach 20 degrees Fahrenheit then PVC pipes will begin to freeze. Ice may begin to form around the pipes, causing blockage in the pipe. This will then cause a rise in water pressure.
- Metal pipes – these pipes will shrink if it gets cold enough. What may cause these pipes to burst isn’t the cold though. It’s the air pressure that builds up as the pipes start to thaw out.
- Water pipes – since a crawlspace is partially exposed to outside element, these pipes are just as susceptible to freezing. Should these pipes, like the others, be frozen long enough then they’re bound to burst which could cause severe flooding.
- Sewer pipes – water trapped in your sewer line can freeze when temperatures hit 0. When this happens then the pipes can expand and cause blockage. This doesn’t always happen because of change in temperatures though. It could also be brought on by poor insulation or heating malfunctions in your home.
What Happens When Pipes Freeze in a Crawl Space?
Should your pipes freeze during the winter in your crawl space then there could be leakage from the pipes or water damage in and around the crawl space.
There could be severe flooding if the pipes aren’t fixed immediately.
Some pipes, if frozen, may only take 4-5 hours before they end up bursting. This doesn’t apply to all pipes as some may just become frozen and then eventually thaw out.
Once they begin to thaw though, the water pressure that builds back up in the pipe could cause the pipe to burst that way too.
The best way to avoid pipes freezing to begin with is to keep an eye on the temperature in your crawlspace to make sure it isn’t so cold that the pipes could freeze.
Especially when winter starts to set in you want to be aware of the temperature as it changes to make sure the cold air isn’t seeping into the crawl space.
We’ll cover ways on how to prevent freezing in the following section.
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How to keep Pipes from Freezing in a Crawl Space
- Insulation – make sure the crawl space is properly insulated to prevent cold air reaching the pipes.
- Cover exposed pipes – you can insulate the pipes themselves to help prevent them from damage. One of the best ways is to wrap the pipes in foam insulation. This can be cost-effective way in winterizing your pipes too. Be sure to check your pipes in the garage and attic to see if they need insulation too.
- Leave faucets dripping – you can let your faucets inside the home drip which will slow down the freezing process. This will also stop pressure from building up within the pipes and help prevent bursting.
- Turn on your heat – another option is to leave the heat on in your home while you’re away. The heat will radiate under your home as well and the pipes and prevent them from freezing. Some people shy away from doing this because they don’t want an expensive heating bill. Just turning the heat up a few degrees though could save you some damage in the long run.
- Seal of air leaks – check and see that cold air is not getting into the crawl space. Be sure to seal and caulk off these leaks and cover crawl space vents to stop any loss of heat.
Should You Insulate a Crawl Space?
Yes, you should insulate your crawl space even if for the simple fact that this will help your home be more energy-efficient. This will be extremely beneficial for your home if you happen to deal with harsh winters.
Insulating the crawl space will help prevent any possible damage that may occur through pipes freezing within the crawl space.
Without insulation, heat and cool air can be lost through the floor. By insulating the crawl space you’ll be preserving the air quality as well as reducing energy costs. Also, if installed properly, the insulation can last 20 to 40 years so you don’t have to keep replacing the insulation.
Periodically though you’ll want to check the insulation to make sure it’s still in good condition and not coming apart whether it be from animal infestation or if it gets any water damage for example.
Insulating the Crawl Space
Foam-board would be the most popular method for insulation for walls inside a crawl space. Rigid foam insulation works well with any type of wall such as concrete, block, brick or stone.
You may also add silver foil to the foam which can help with energy savings as it will reflect heat back into the crawl space. The foil can be facing away from the crawl space or inward. Either way works.
Also, be sure that all ventilation to the exterior of the home is sealed off. With an airtight crawl space, you will have a more energy-efficient home which will help reduce heating costs.
For moderate winters where the cold isn’t that intense, you can just use insulation between the floor joists.
Should your winter weather be extreme cold though, it’s best to insulate and seal off the walls to the crawl space entirely.
Another option to consider when it comes to insulation is Encapsulation. This is a great way to insulate the crawl space if water can be an issue for you.
Using this method can protect your home from mold, moisture and standing water. It’ll also block outside air from getting in and help with energy costs as well.
Best Insulation materials for your crawlspace
Two items for insulating a crawl space which are considered the best to use are fiberglass , Rockwool or foam spray.
- Fiberglass/Rockwool – this can be a DIY project which can be more affordable. However, if choosing fiberglass it can also collect dust and moisture which can cause the growth of mold and mildew. Also, if the fiberglass becomes disturbed it can release harmful particles in the air that could cause respiratory issues if inhaled. Just be aware of the pros and cons of this material before using. Given the choice always go for Rockwool!
- Foam – this material is safe for the environment and it doesn’t retain water, so it won’t allow growth of mold or mildew. Spray foam can also create an air seal which can help lower monthly energy costs to the home. When it comes to this material though it can be more expensive than fiberglass and you’re likely to have to hire a specialist to install the foam.
Heating a crawl space to keep pipes from freezing
There are multiple ways to heat the crawl space to prevent freezing pipes.
If you’re unable to seal off the entire crawl space or have good insulation installed, there are some alternatives listed below.
Whether it be using a heater or even a light bulb, the goal is to keep the crawl space warm enough so that the pipes don’t freeze.
- Space heater – one option is using a space heater during the coldest temperatures to keep the pipes warm. Some space heaters are specially designed for this purpose.
Some space heaters even have thermostats that will make the space heater turn on only when the temperature drops below a certain threshold.
- Light bulb – using a low-watt bulb placed near the pipes can help prevent them freezing in your crawl space as well, this is best used if your crawl space is fairly well insulated.
Should you Close Crawl Space Vents in Winter?
Vents around the crawl space are designed to allow outside air circulate under the floor during the summer to prevent moisture build-up.
In the winter though, when the air is drier, it’s best to keep the vents closed to reduce the chances of the pipes getting cold and freezing in your crawl space.
When temperatures hit below 40 degrees F that’s when you’ll want to close the vents.
Below are a few benefits that can come with closing vents to the crawl space during the cold months –
- Helps keep wet air out during rainy weather
- Reduces chances of mold
- Creates warmer floors during winter
- Could potentially save on heating and cooling costs
- Can prevent costly repairs
When to Call a Professional?
If you suspect your pipes have frozen in your crawl space it’s best to contact a professional right away.
You may try to thaw them out yourself by using a heating source such as a space heater, however, you may as well end up with leaking/burst pipes if not doing this properly.
Often times there will be several places where the pipes have frozen and have ended up bursting.
We have Water Damage Restoration Technicians that can help Locate the Frozen Pipes & Repair any Damage caused.
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