Do you need water pipes that won’t freeze when it gets cold? A frozen pipe can lead to plumbing damage and expensive repairs.
You can benefit from picking the right pipe material for freezing conditions (even if it’s a rare occurrence in your area). How does PEX pipe hold up against freezing temperatures? Let’s see.
In this PlumbingNav guide, we cover:
- Does PEX freeze?
- PEX pipes and freezing temperatures
- Does PEX expand?
|What's In This Guide?
Does PEX Pipe Freeze?
PEX water pipe is considered “freeze-resistant” but that does not mean that it’s completely freeze-proof.
PEX pipe material is flexible. It won’t burst as easily when in contact with freezing temperatures like a rigid pipe made of metal, such as galvanized steel, iron, or copper pipe is below zero.
While it won’t lead to a burst pipe, PEX pipe will still freeze in below-freezing conditions. Constant freezing can lead to plumbing leaks.
Pex Temperature Rating: When Will PEX Pipe Freeze?
It’s not the pipes themselves that freeze but the water inside. When the water freezes it expands and puts stress on the pipe.
When above ground, you can expect the water inside of exposed PEX pipes to freeze at a sustained 32°F if no water is flowing.
When underground, it takes longer for the material to freeze. The deeper the pipes, the longer the pipes take to freeze, but deep pipes are also more difficult to access.
The “temperature alert threshold”, the temperature at which most underground pipes freeze, is usually 20°F.
Things to Know About PEX Pipes and Freezing Temperatures
Causes of Frozen PEX Plumbing
PEX pipes freeze when temperatures fall below freezing for exposed outdoor pipes and when temperatures fall below the temperature alert threshold for underground outdoor pipes.
Frozen pipes happen in all 50 states, including Southern states like Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and even Hawaii.
Even if temperatures don’t fall below freezing in the area that often, it only takes one cold front for you to experience serious plumbing problems due to frozen pipes.
Many times, freezing temperatures affect outdoor faucets first. However, internal plumbing can also freeze, especially if the residents go on vacation and leave the heat turned off.
Complications of Frozen PEX Pipes
When PEX piping experiences freezing temperature, it actually expands and contracts to accommodate the extra size of the ice in the pipes.
While the process prevents the pipes from bursting at the time, PEX pipes can only expand and contract so many times before it causes impactful stress on the pipes.
Excessive movement will cause the material to deteriorate and create a leak, which can lead to extensive plumbing repairs.
Ways to Prevent Freezing Pipes
While PEX pipes hold up to freezing temperatures better than many other materials, it’s still important to take certain precautions to protect your plumbing.
- Maintain a minimum HVAC temperature of 55°F
- PEX pipe insulation
- Use a water heater blanket
- Turn off and drain outdoor faucets
As a bonus measure, be sure to also Install freeze-proof outdoor faucets.
Want to explore all the benefits of using PEX? See this post for where we cover the advantages of PEX plumbing.
PEX Plumbing Pipe and Heat
So PEX pipe holds up well under cold weather conditions and cold water, but how does it hold up to heat?
PEX tube only accommodates up to 180 degrees. The material will start to melt if temperatures get any higher.
Luckily, your water heater probably isn’t set higher than 120 degrees, so PEX pipe makes a suitable choice for household plumbing needs, even when we’re talking about hot water.
However, PEX plumbing might not be the best option for commercial and industrial systems that use scalding water in their operations. See this post to explore the disadvantages of using PEX.
Frozen Pex Pipe: Does Pex Expand?
One great aspect about PEX pipe is that it does expand when it gets cold and then contracts back to its original shape after the fact. This helps prevent immediate damage since the pipes expand to accommodate the ice inside as it expands. This contributes to PEX lasting longer than other materials that immediately crack.
With that being said, it’s important to understand that constant movement can damage the pipe over time.
Not only does the ability to expand help under cold weather conditions, but it also helps when you need to connect PEX pipe to another pipe that doesn’t match up perfectly.
PEX Pipe Vs. PVC Pipe
PEX pipe and PVC pipe both consist of plastic and both make a great option for most residential plumbing needs. Read more about PVC pipe here.
With that being said, PEX pipe works best for internal plumbing needs thanks to its flexibility. Since PEX pipe doesn’t hold up as well when exposed to UV rays, PVC pipe is the better choice for outdoor plumbing as it can last longer.
Final Thoughts On Risk of Pex Pipes Freezing
PEX tubing makes a great option when installing plumbing outdoors since it won’t freeze as easily, and, if it does freeze, it expands and contracts to help prevent a burst pipe.
Many people are upgrading from copper to PEX thanks to these advancements. This is especially true in new home builds. Thanks to PEX’s compatible nature, you can make the transition slowly as your copper piping reaches the end of its lifespan.
FAQs All About Pex Pipes and Cold Temperatures
Do PEX pipes freeze?
Yes. PEX pipes freeze. However, they are designed to withstand freezing temperatures better than metal piping due to their ability to expand.
What are water pipes that don’t freeze?
All pipes freeze. PEX piping is one of the best options for cold weather conditions as they have more flexibility.
At what temperature does PEX pipe freeze
PEX pipe freezes at a sustained 32 degrees when exposed outdoors. PEX piping freezes at 20 degrees when underground.
Does PEX pipe expand?
Yes. PEX pipe, naturally flexible, expands and contracts to accommodate the physical changes that occur when water freezes inside the pipes. While this prevents the pipe from bursting, constant movement will eventually lead to damage.
Does PEX pipe freeze and bust?
PEX pipe does not usually burst thanks to its maneuverability. However, after a significant amount of stress, the pipe may experience a leak, especially at a connection point.
Thinking of Installing PEX? See this post for tips:
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