During winter’s rare extreme frigid freezes, water supply pipes have a tendency to freeze and burst. While plumbers frequently advise on how to prevent your pipes from freezing, they do not always instruct you on what to do when pipes have frozen already. The following are steps to take to remedy the problem safely. Follow these tips, and you may find yourself avoiding or minimizing serious damage.
1. Locate the Actual Frozen Pipe
To thaw frozen pipes, you need to first determine which pipes are frozen. Start by turning on the faucets of your property. If no water comes out of the faucet, or only a bare trickle comes through, then one of the pipes leading to that faucet is most likely frozen. And if one pipe has frozen, odds are others have frozen as well.
You may be able to see the frozen sections in pipes that are exposed. Such locations include pipes under sinks, along the house’s exterior, or in basements. Frozen pipes tend to have frost on the exteriors or may have developed a slight bulge. If the blockage is in one of these easily accessed places, you will have more options for easily warming and thawing the pipe than you will if the frozen portion is located in a place enclosed behind a wall.
2. Open the Faucet
Before you actually begin to attempt to thaw the frozen pipe, you need to open the faucet. Ensure that you have opened both cold and hot handles. This helps you to relieve the system’s pressure, allowing water to escape once the pipe has begun its thawing process.
3. Find Where to Begin Thawing
Always begin thawing pipes near the faucet, working your way back down to the blockage. This ensures that melting ice and steam can escape through the opened faucet. If you begin thawing closer to the blockage, the ice melt may get trapped behind the location of the blockage, creating still more pressure inside the pipe and greatly increasing the odds of a burst pipe.
4. Thaw Exposed Pipes
If a frozen pipe is located in an easily accessible area, you have a range of options for attempting to thaw it. You should apply heat, continuing to apply it until the water running from the faucet is at full strength again. The following are four methods for thawing exposed pipes.
Hairdryers are among the easiest methods for thawing pipes. Simply plug the appliance into a safe outlet, turn the hairdryer on, and then direct the heat at the pipe. Begin, as always, at the end closest to the faucet. As with every electrical product near water, take the proper precautions. Do not let the device come into contact with any water as you operate it.
Portable space heaters or heat lamps are another means of thawing out pipes. Position the unit so that its heat is capable of reaching the frozen pipe. While indirect, this heat can help the pipe to quickly thaw. Again, comply with safety precautions and measures. Keep the heat source away from the water.
Hot towels are a third means of thawing frozen pipes. Wrap a few towels that have been dunked in hot water about the pipe. This is a slower method, but it will still gradually assist in thawing the blocked spot.
Electrical heating tape is the final option. Apply it directly onto the pipe. The tape distributes heat, warming the pipe. You can purchase two types of heating tape: one that you plug in and unplug yourself as needed and the other that shuts off on its own.
5. Thaw Enclosed Pipes
Frozen pipes are not always easily accessed. For pipes that are located in walls, you have a few options for heating them. You can try turning up the heat in the property. This simple technique may be all that is necessary to fix your frozen pipes. The second technique to use an infrared lamp. If you know where the frozen pipe lies within the wall, place an infrared lamp in front of that portion of the wall so that the heat can penetrate it and allow the pipe to defrost. Finally, if you are comfortable with a bigger project, cut a section out of the wall. Having removed the section of drywall that walls you off from the frozen pipe, you can access it and use one of the methods listed above to thaw the pipes.
Do Not Use Open Flames
Never use an open flame to thaw out a pipe. A propane torch is one example of a technique to avoid. You can damage your pipes with open flames. Another risk of trying to thaw frozen pipes with open flames is that you can start a fire on the property.
Risks You Take When Thawing Frozen Pipes
You should know about the two main risks when seeking to thaw your own frozen water pipes. The first is fire. When using a heat source, you run the risk of fires starting. Ensure that all safety instructions are followed, never leaving heating products unattended. The second is a burst pipe. When you begin the process of thawing at the wrong end of the blockage, the pipe can burst, and the damage, including water damage, can become quite extensive.
Prevent Frozen Pipes
The old saying goes that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There are certain steps you can take to prevent damage from freezing in the future. Such steps include:
- Keeping the heat on
- Allowing faucets to run at a slow drip
- Keeping all doors of the interior open to permit heat to circulate in your home
- Sealing up cracks and holes to prevent cold air from getting in
- Using extra insulation
- Removing exterior hoses
- Shutting off interior valves that feed exterior hoses
Consult a Professional
If you cannot thaw a pipe, cannot find the location of the frozen pipe, do not feel confident in your ability to thaw the pipe yourself, or if the ice-blocked pipe bursts, you should call our professionals. We will be able to remedy the situation for you.
Contact Beyer Plumbing in the San Antonio Area
With a history of providing local home services since 1990, Beyer Plumbing has displayed 31 years of expert repairs on water systems and fixtures. We are dedicated to helping in emergency situations with our highly trained plumbers. In addition to solving your problems with frozen pipes, we install new fixtures including showers and tubs, and replace old equipment using Moen, Kohler, and Rheem products to make your property function and look its best. We assist with leaky pipes with our certified, licensed, and insured plumbers, and we proudly maintain our A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. We guarantee our work as well, and we deliver transparent information about the state of your current water system. Contact Breyer Plumbing today to learn more about our services in New Braunfels, Boerne, and the San Antonio area!