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Thread: How to thaw frozen pipes!

  1. #1
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    Default How to thaw frozen pipes!

    It's that time of year when pipes are freezing.

    There are several things you can do.

    1) Make sure your heat is on. Sounds silly, but I've seen homes with the power off before.

    2) Remove garden hoses from hosebibs
    If your home is older than the sixties, you may not have frostfree hosebibes, those should be covered.


    3) Make sure you water meter box has some sort of cover over the meter. You don't want the water meter freezing.

    4) If you have plumbing on an outside wall, like a kitchen sink, keep the cabinet doors open. You will want as much warm air getting to the plumbing as possible. Closing those cabinet doors prevents the warmth of the home from getting there. Open doors.


    5) If you have a frozen pipe, DO NOT use open flame. These can cause fires. The wood in homes becomes very dry and flammable. Just a little flame, and you could lose your home.

    USE a hair dryer to thaw pipes.


    6) If you have a faucet (s) that freezes, you may want to run a little water, that keeps the water moving and prevents freezing too.

    7) If your main line has frozen, they do have pipe thawing devices that can clamp on, using electricity to run a warming current to thaw, this only works on metal pipes. If you have plastic, you will need warm air.

    Last edited by Terry; 11-25-2010 at 10:58 AM.

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    Master Plumber nhmaster's Avatar
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    I wonder if anyone has ever kept records as to how many houses get burned down each year by folks trying to un-thaw pipes?

    My favorite is the guy that turns the thermostat off and cranks the wood stove up. I've seen heat pipes freeze and break in the very same room the stove was in.

  3. #3
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default pipe thawing

    A wall paper steamer and hose makes a great pipe thawer inside walls, under floors, and even drain lines sometimes if you can feed the hose in far enough.

  4. #4
    Illinois Licensed Plumber SewerRatz's Avatar
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    I have had good luck taking water from the water heater into a 5 gallon bucket and using a water fall/effect pump with a 1/4" plastic hose and fed the hose into the pipe to thaw the ice in the pipe. I learned this from an old well guy, since most of the well systems here have a plastic pipe from the house to the well head that freezes ever now and then.

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    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    Just an update on how to thaw frozen pipes and what to do.

    Please remember to remove all outside hoses.
    Keep cabinet doors open on outside walls with plumbing
    Don't let you heat get down too low.
    Last edited by Terry; 12-09-2009 at 02:11 PM.

  6. #6
    Plumber Esquire's Avatar
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    Anyone ever use the fire hydrant and inside piping to thaw a water main? I've heard of it done but never attempted or seen it done personally. I have heard if you wish to do ityou have to make sure you remove the electrical ground for the house if it falls with in the clamps of the thaw machine. Just curious what you guys think of this.

  7. #7
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    Default Hot or cold running water

    My hot water only froze in my master bathroom sinks. Until we get the problem permanently resolved, do I leave the hot or cold water on drizzle when the temps are going to get below zero?

  8. #8
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    If only the hot froze, you might get by with just letting the hot drip. WHen the water is flowing, you are constantly replacing some of the cooling water with water from a warmer part of the house, so it doesn't ever get cold enough to freeze. Try leaving the vanity doors open and let it drip. Just having the doors open may be enough, but it depends on where it actually froze.

    You had asked earlier how to tell if you did split a pipe. One thing you can do is make sure everything is off in the water system, then watch the water meter. If you can keep people from using water for awhile, go back and check on it after a few hours. If it is moving, you either have a leak, or someone used some water (flushed a toilet, etc.). Otherwise, unless you can hear it or see wet spots on say the ceiling or walls, you may never know. If it is leaking badly, you'll hear it. Note, it could start slowly, depending on how big and where it starts to thaw from.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    It's freezing in Seattle right now.
    Read the tips above for protecting your pipes.

  10. #10
    Homeowner Thatguy's Avatar
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    I've heard that in PA they use welding machines to thaw inground copper pipes by passing many amps through them.

  11. #11
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    The closer the two clamps can be positioned to each other, and the less "dirt" the current has to pass through, the more effective a thawing machine or a welder will be. BUT, it the pipes have frozen and burst, so there is a gap between the ends, a welder can create an arc and burn the house down.

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    Homeowner Thatguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    a welder can create an arc and burn the house down.
    That's probably why I haven't yet been on the evening news; I didn't yet do the right things.

  13. #13
    DIY Senior Member Rich B's Avatar
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    Thawing pipes with a welder is a common practice but it is really hard on the machine. It is very easy to exceed the 100% duty cycle rating of a welding machine doing this.......You can hurt the engine or easily damage the windings or wiring in the machine.......Big machines can do it a lot better than small but they should not be turned up to max output.....

    Some machines have warning labels on them that say DO NOT use for thawing pipes.......Larger Diesels are in the $20K range new for a Miller or Lincoln.......they can do the job as they are usually rated at 300-400 amps at around 30 volts DC.....and at 100% Duty cycle which means continuous with no rest period needed....

  14. #14
    Homeowner Thatguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich B View Post
    Thawing pipes with a welder is a common practice but it is really hard on the machine. It is very easy to exceed the 100% duty cycle rating of a welding machine doing this.......You can hurt the engine or easily damage the windings or wiring in the machine.......Big machines can do it a lot better than small but they should not be turned up to max output.....

    Some machines have warning labels on them that say DO NOT use for thawing pipes.......Larger Diesels are in the $20K range new for a Miller or Lincoln.......they can do the job as they are usually rated at 300-400 amps at around 30 volts DC.....and at 100% Duty cycle which means continuous with no rest period needed....
    This gets interesting; 1" ID copper pipe is equivalent to heavier than 0000 AWG copper wire. That's a dead short in my book.

    And if you have a welding machine and a storage oscilloscope you could check your resi. circuit breakers [from behind a shield]. Nah, just kidding.
    Last edited by Thatguy; 11-24-2010 at 05:53 PM.

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    It IS a dead short which is what creates the heat to thaw the frozen line, and why it is hard on the welding machines. But then, a stuck welding electrode is also a "dead short", and the machines survive that.

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