For pure enjoyment, frozen water pipes rank right up there with anesthesia-free heart surgery and food poisoning.

Honestly, is there any end to the fun you can have with frozen pipes? Even if they don’t burst, there’s the stoppage in water flow, always a crowd pleaser. Then there’s the thrill of trying to thaw the pipes with space heaters, hair dryers, or a flame thrower (assuming you have one). You can use a lighter, but you’ll need to cancel your plans for the day – it’s gonna take a while.

Of course, if even one of your pipes burst, you’re guaranteed to experience an entirely new level of entertainment, especially if you aren’t home when they pop. According to Consumer Reports, burst pipes are one of the most common causes of property damage during frigid weather and can cause thousands in water damage - easily $5,000 or more, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety. And that doesn’t even include the cost of temporary housing (if necessary), as well as the overall disruption of your family’s lives. If you aren’t having fun by now, then you just don’t know what fun is.

We’re being facetious. Frozen pipes are no fun – not even a little bit. They are the exact opposite of fun. They’re even less fun when you realize how many pipes in your home can potentially burst: the pipes most at risk are those in unheated interior spaces such as basements, attics, and garages, but even pipes running through cabinets or exterior walls can freeze.

This brings up a question that has been thoroughly explored by experts over the years: that is, at what temperature do pipes freeze? The truth is, there is no simple answer. Water freezes at 32°F, but indoor pipes are somewhat protected from outdoor temperature extremes, even in unheated areas of the house like in the attic or garage. Just because it’s 32°F outside doesn’t mean the pipes will reach those temperatures.


As a general rule, temperatures outside must drop to at least 20 degrees or lower to cause pipes to freeze. In northern climates, where the temperatures regularly fall below freezing, modern homes tend to be well-insulated, and water pipes are located on the inner parts of the house for extra protection; in older homes, this is not always the case. In southern climates, hard freezes can be more problematic because homes there are not built to accommodate the infrequent cold temperatures.

Given the increased probability of such an occurrence at this time of year, it’s worth noting that the SimpleSENCE Water Leak and Freeze Detector can help prevent these costly, life-disrupting events. If you’ve already bought SimpleSENCE units to alert you to water leaks, then you’re already primed and ready for freeze alerts as well. The device has a temperature sensing range of (-40°F to 302°F) and will trigger a low temperature alarm at 34°F – well before your pipes will freeze.

While SimpleSENCE is a terrific, easy-to-use device for alerting homeowners to possible pipe freezes, we want to offer you, as a public service, some additional safeguards to help prevent your home from becoming an indoor swimming pool.

  • Insulate pipes using easy-to-install and inexpensive foam tubing. Long term, add insulation to attics, basements, and crawl spaces.
  • To prevent drafts, seal cracks and openings around windows, doors, and at sill plates, where the house rests on its foundation.
  • If an extended, deep freeze is predicted, consider installing electric heat tape.
  • Use insulating faucet covers, paper or trash bags, or plastic foam around outdoor faucets. Pressure-relief valves on outdoor faucets also helps prevent frozen pipes from bursting.
  • Temporarily cover any vents around the foundation of your home.
  • Disconnect water hoses from the faucets, drain the hoses and bring indoors if possible.
  • Keep garage doors closed, especially if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing, especially if your sinks are on an exterior wall. (If you have small children, be sure to remove any harmful cleaners and household chemicals.)


  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature during day and night. During a cold snap is not the time to set back the thermostat at night to save a few bucks on your heating bill.
  • Let the cold water drip from a faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe—even at a trickle—helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • If you plan to be away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
All of these tips, combined with a supply of SimpleSENCE units in all the right places, will virtually eliminate the possibility of suffering the icy heartbreak of frozen pipes. Then, you can have some real fun.