How to Thaw Your Frozen Pipes
It’s the new year, but the hazards of winter aren’t over yet. Frozen pipes are a definite possibility, even in regions where winters aren’t as harsh. In fact, you might be dealing with frozen pipes right now. Follow this guide to thaw frozen pipes and prevent this problem from happening again in the future.
How Cold Does it Have to be for Pipes to Freeze?
It must be below freezing inside the plumbing long enough for an ice dam to form. The “temperature alert threshold” is 20 degrees F. Pipes vulnerable to freezing at this temperature are usually located in an unconditioned attic, basement, crawlspace, or along an exterior wall. Underground pipes can also freeze.
How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
If you open a faucet and no water comes out, ice may be blocking the plumbing. It’s time to thaw it out, but the technique you use depends on where the ice is located. Here’s how to thaw frozen pipes…
…That are Exposed
Open the faucet to relieve pressure as you work and turn off the main water supply in case a pipe has burst. This will prevent a watery mess as you thaw the ice.
Starting from the faucet side and moving toward the frozen area, slowly heat the pipes with a hair dryer, electric heating pad, heat lamp, or portable space heater. Never use an open flame to thaw frozen pipes.
…Located Behind the Wall
The simplest technique is to turn up the thermostat and wait. To speed up the process, hold an infrared lamp against the wall. If the situation is dire, you may need to cut a hole in the wall to expose the plumbing, after which you can follow conventional thawing methods.
Don’t assume you must dig to thaw frozen pipes underground! Instead, you just need a water jet to blast the ice out of the way from the inside. Turn off the main water supply and then follow these steps:
- Place a submersible water pump in a five-gallon bucket of water.
- Attach 1/4-inch plastic ice maker tubing to the pump with the appropriate fitting (available from a local hardware store).
- Attach a four-foot piece of flexible PEX tubing to the pipe in question.
- Feed the ice maker tubing into the PEX tubing until it reaches the blockage.
- Plug the pump into a GFCI outlet to pump a steady stream of water directly at the ice dam.
- As the water hits the ice, it simply trickles back down the pipe and into you five-gallon bucket.
- Once the blockage is clear, pull the tubing back out, turn the main water supply back on, and you’re back in business!
Prevent Frozen Pipes in the Future
After you experience frozen pipes once, you never want them again. Here are a few ways to make sure pipes don’t freeze in the future:
- Have your sprinkler system blown out and disconnect garden hoses from outdoor spigots before winter arrives.
- Open a faucet connected to a vulnerable plumbing line to allow a small trickle of cold water to run all night.
- Open under-sink cabinets to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes.
- Never set the thermostat lower than 55 degrees, even if you’re out of town.
- Insulate exposed piping on external walls.
Let Mr. Rooter® Plumbing Help Thaw Your Frozen Pipes
If you attempt these tricks but you still can’t thaw the ice in your plumbing, Mr. Rooter Plumbing can help. Our experienced plumbers can also repair burst pipes to get your plumbing up and running again. For more advice, or to schedule plumbing services, please contact Mr. Rooter Plumbing today.
Subscribe today for free to receive My Home Life magazine e-newsletter in your inbox and begin learning to improve your home life. Click here.